Rejections, Intentions

23 January 2002

One rejection last night in the mail, one rejection this morning on e-mail, one acceptance, and one set of notes to my galleys for "Irena's Roses" (which were mailed separately and have not arrived yet). The acceptance is the funny one. (Well, not surprisingly; rejections are rarely funny.) Yesterday I wrote an essay I'd been thinking of for awhile, "Underoos Generation." Yes. I wrote an essay about Underoos. Sent it to Skirt! and got an acceptance for their May issue this morning. And Scott had just told me that not many people would write that essay and then send it out to the public, much less get published and paid for it. So, woo! Underoos money!

The rejections were -- well, hmm. They were on companion stories, "The Empty Place" and "The Children's Village." The comments on "The Empty Place" showed that those editors and I were in synch: they got what I wanted them to out of the piece. Unfortunately, they thought it should be part of a novel. Now, look, people. Not everything I write can be a novel. If you mean "longer," couldn't you say "novelette" or even "novella" once in awhile? But no. Novel. And the worst part is, yeah, I can see that. I can totally see that. ARGH. Do I need another novel to write? I do not.

The rejection on "The Children's Village" was a little different. It made me want to expand it, but not directly because of anything the editor in question had to say. I just thought about it and decided there was more I wanted to do with it, and more directly speculative stuff. The editor said that the message overshadowed his interest in the characters. Problem was, the message he cited was pretty much opposite the one I intended. Bigger problem was, the one I intended was much more subtle. That's a bigger problem because it's hard to make an idea that's inherently more subtle come out more blatantly than the "obvious" idea that a reader is expecting. Also, it's hard to tell at that point who screwed up, me or the editor. Did I make it too subtle to see, or did he just miss it completely? Hard to say. Maybe the longer form (novelette or novella, thank you!) will help make that clearer.

See, Evan and I have been talking about intentions and fiction (among other things, since it's a very long e-mail). (As usual, anything I state here should not be taken to be Evan's point of view or the opposite of Evan's point of view. Evan can speak for himself.) I think it doesn't matter what you intend when you sit down to write a piece of fiction. I think that you can intend to write a novel that explores the depths of two human psyches in a real and humane manner, and if it comes off as a preachy potboiler, it doesn't matter that you intended something deeper for it. Alternately, if you intend to write a piece of purely fun trash, and it comes out as a deep, introspective character study, you can't order the reader to enjoy it lightly. Who cares what you meant? The reader can't read what you meant. The reader can only read what you wrote. The road to crap is only sometimes paved with lofty intentions. Sometimes it's paved with low intentions. Sometimes the road to good stuff is paved with both, too.

So. I'm sending "The Empty Place" back out and keeping "The Children's Village" for expansion -- but not today, because I'm still working on the new ending to Reprogramming and I need to do something brand new for a break. Yesterday I rejected over 90,000 words worth of fiction. That's well into the novel range, only in short stories. Oof. Some of those rejections were just normal rejections, but a few of them were painful to write. I haven't yet gotten into the "rip my toenails out instead of making me do this" range of painful rejections to write, but I have a feeling I will before the final ToC is decided. This editor stuff is Hard.

Mark, sadly, is getting Timprov's flu. Timprov, happily, is getting over Mark's cold. And I, I am scaring off viruses with lots of white cranberry-peach juice. Cranberries are scary things, even white ones. I'm going to see David today, and I'm going to try his recipe for quesadillas for dinner. It's just a Davidish day, I guess. And, quite appropriately, it has an extensive agenda: Reprogramming edits, more slush reading, ordering my bridesmaid dress for Sarah's wedding, working on "Glass Wind" or some other new short story, balancing the checkbook, cleaning out the microwave...right. I'd better get started.

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