Tag Archives: rejection

Ups and a down

So I’ll go in reverse alphabetical order and deal with the good news first.

The blog seems to be going pretty well. Today was my third best day since the big opening day of the blog in terms of views. I’ve got more than ten followers through wordpress (thanks guys!) a couple of followers via e-mail (thanks guys!) and nearly 30 followers on Facebook (thanks to you guys too!). If you aren’t following yet it’s easy. Just look to the right-hand side of your screen and use either e-mail or Facebook to stay up-to-date with my posts!

Not bad for the first week.

Even more importantly than the stats the blogosphere has exposed me to lots of other people doing lots of cool stuff and to helpful resources and opportunities I wouldn’t have found otherwise. It’s also been really inspiring me to write, and I suppose that’s the most important function it can serve. If I feel there’s an audience for what I’m writing then it’s more than just me bashing a keyboard, it becomes a more shared experience of creating something, and I think that’s been really energising. A week ago I hadn’t even conceived the novel project I’m working on, but now I’ve got a plan and characters and some major plot points and I’m drafting.

Which brings me to my second ‘up’.

Despite all the distractions of life and the competing commitments that have needed juggling I wrote over 1,000 words today on my untitled project and have a total of over 5,000 words. That’s a complete prologue and chapter one and a start on chapter two (in draft stages). I’ll keep posting some excerpts in the drafting section as I go, as I did with the prologue and with chapter 1.

And now the bad news…

I’d put a query in with a Literary Agent here in Australia whose website suggested they were open for submissions and accepted Fantasy manuscripts. The list of Australian Literary Agents who fit that description is quite small, so I was hopeful of at least being able to send them some of my writing.

Not to be. They’re “not looking at manuscripts such as the one I describe”. It was a basic form letter (e-mail) rejection but they sent me a link to a list of Literary Agents. It was the same site I’d used to find them but at least they’re being a little helpful.

Anyway rejection is always bad news, but it also means my search for an agent is now a little more focussed. Not too many more can reject me here in Australia, and it may mean I need to find one overseas, but in the age of the internet that shouldn’t be an insurmountable hurdle. New York and London are as near to me a Sydney for all intents and purposes.

So I leave today feeling energised, with a little more written than I had this morning, with a little more clarity of focus, and with determination to keep working at it.

I read an interview with Joe Abercrombie wherein he said his First Law trilogy was rejected several times and kicked around failed submissions for almost a year… and his First Law trilogy is excellent, so I’ve got a few months and a few more rejections and revisions up my sleeve yet.


…is an inevitable part of the aspiring author’s life. I recognise this. Rationally I acknowledge it. In a sense I am glad that it is as common as it is; it means that when (not if) I am successful in a submission I will know its worth.

Often when the rejection comes through it is a cursory note, or a proforma e-mail, or some other sort of standard ‘thank you but unfortunately…’ kind of response. That’s fair enough too. I imagine that the slush-pile of any publication accepting unsolicited submission doesn’t really allow for a detailed analysis of the story’s strengths and weaknesses. There are other support services for that after all.

One of my submissions, to an Australian Fantasy / Spec-fic magazine (now gone digital) was an exception.

I submitted my short story “The Green Monkeys” and was unsuccessful. The reader’s response I got was:

“While this story is competently written and has a cute title there is little new going on in what is essentially short fantasy adventure story. I was constantly nagged by the lack of explanation as to why a young man in a medieval-esque Ireland would call a goblin a monkey. This is “classic” story telling without a good zing in the tail to grab attention.”

My initial reaction was, of course, disappointment. That’s natural. If I wasn’t disappointed I might as well give up I reckon. With a bit of distance though I can’t really argue too much with the comments.

  • “competently written” … well could be worse I suppose. ‘competent’ still seems workmanlike and uninspired, but it’s better than incompetent.
  • “cute title”… I’m not sure what is meant by “cute”, but if the title has attracted attention then its served its purpose, so not too unhappy with this.
  • “nagged by lack of explanation”… I think it’s always a difficult balance to strike with Fantasy (or invented worlds generally) between plotting and exposition. In other forms of fiction I might say “1943 in France…”, or “she was an African-American living in the deep south…” and the reader will bring so much knowledge that it’s unnecessary to explain the connotations of those settings / characters. This is not true of Fantasy. Often the reader will bring very little knowledge to the author’s world, especially in a short story. The flip-side of this is that the reader doesn’t want to get bogged down in characters telling each other what they already know for the sake of the reader. The “as you know…” conversation might pass muster on CSI, but I doubt it’s my path to publication.
  • “classic” story telling … that sounds really nice, except for the tone imparted by the quote marks over ‘classic’
  • “without a good zing” … and that sums it up really I reckon.

So that’s what I’m taking away from this rejection: got to make it zing, got to grab attention.

It’s not enough to be competent, cute, or a classic story. It’s got to have something which sets it apart for the reader from all the other competent classic story-telling in the slush-pile.

Now all I need to do is figure out how to make my stories ‘zing’.

Easy as that huh?