August 3, 2011

The Sweet Sting of Rejection

I spend my free time over the weekend trying to get my writerly life organized, at least somewhat. Figured now as as good a time as any to take stock of things.

The motivating event for that organization was that I finished the second draft of my 2008 NaNoWriMo project, Plausible Reliability. I had started to revised it once before, but couldn't slog through more than about 80 pages. What triggered the second (successful) attempt was getting a red-penned copy of the first draft back from my father. He handed it back to me with some kind words of encouragement, so I took another whack at it.

Second draft finished, I went out Saturday and had it printed up and collected in a spiffy three-ring binder. Then I stuck it in a box. And put the box in the closet. There it will moulder forever, or at least until I kick the bucket and my executor decides to ignore my wishes and try and publish it anyway.*

That second pass through, unfortunately, reinforced my conclusion that Plausible Reliability sucks, and sucks pretty hard. It's slow, nothing really happens until the final fifth of the book, and then when it does it's kind of an anticlimax. I still like the general idea, and might return to it someday. But for now, it's into the box it goes.

That's not an entirely bad, or even unusual, thing. Nearly every writer's first novel sucks. Many of them wind up "trunked," which is just a shorter way of saying "dumped in a box in the closet for eternity." Plausible Reliability will always be a milestone for me because it was the first novel I finished and let me prove to myself that I could string together a long-form story. The fact that I can look at it now, see that it sucks, and figure out why will only make things easier going forward with other projects.

Speaking of other projects, my attempts to sell one my short stories continues to be like bashing my head against a brick wall. Since January I've shopped around six different stories to 24 different markets and received . . . 23 rejections! The only hold out right now is Tor's website, which takes forever to get back to people. I sent the other five, and a new one, back out last night, all to new (to me) markets, to change things up a bit.

I know, logically, that this sort of rejection is par for the course for writers, new and unpublished ones especially. It's one of the gauntlets you have to run in order to break into the biz. Sort of like why I had to take a tax law course at WVU even though it wasn't on the bar exam - everybody else had to suffer, damn it, now you will, too!

Nevertheless, it can get disheartening. I take some comfort in the fact that, in spite of what seems like a lot of shoot downs, I haven't even been at this for a whole year. So, I'll keep plugging away at it, at least until my email account is overrun by rejection notices so that the entire system crashes under their weight.

Hey, that gives me an idea for a story . . .

* Did I just compare myself with Kafka? Maybe, sorta. I've got some nerve, huh?

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