Thursday, October 13, 2011

Onward. Upward. Both Ways. In the Rain.

Took Damon to a routine doctor visit this morning, picked up a hold at the library, dropped him at work, came home to a short story rejection.

As rejections go it's an encouraging one, as they'd like to see more of my work, but I don't have many viable short stories left hanging around unpublished and I've talked about the trouble I'm having committing a new one. The markets have shrunk so much - apart from the e-markets, which don't feel like real, concrete markets to me and in any case are the equivalent of the $0.025/per word little magazines of my youth - that once a story has circulated four or five times it feels like there's no place left for it to go.

And that is another part of the problem with committing to a new project. It's all very well to write for the fun of it, for yourself, and so on - but I can't pay the contractor in the fun of writing. What we write is only half-written until it's read; and with the internet providing so many free and nearly free ways to connect writers and audiences, the buyer's market in fiction is worse than it ever was, from the point of view of us midlisters with entrepreneurophobia.

Professionals have many things to offer which the amateur pool out there does not. If you pick up a book of mine, you know you're getting a complete story, for one thing. Although many, many talented amateurs are self-publishing through the internet, using blogging services and fora as venues, professionalism shows in lots of ways - from basic grammar, spelling, and punctuation skills to the ability to go over a scene until it's the way it's supposed to be. But a lot of people don't care much about those things, anyway, especially if they can get "good enough" free but have to pay for "excellent."

And many people who should be paid for their work are so desperate for the audience, they'll give themselves away. It's tempting, I know; especially if you're part of a community that offers encouragement and praise. But the inadequacy of encouragement and praise alone to keep a creative artist going can readily be seen by the number of unfinished projects lying around the web. A writer posts on-line to an admiring, but parsimonious, public; doles out chapters that are eagerly awaited, discussed, commented on, and read; reaches the long slog in the middle or writes her way into a corner and then has a baby/loses a family member/contracts an illness/gets a new job/graduates; and the wait between installments gets longer and longer, the audience falls away, and the story remains unfinished.

Sure, those things happen to professionals, too. But the incentive to persevere in the face of difficulties is much stronger in someone who is actively trying to be paid for her work.

And professionals have one luxury that self-published amateurs lack. We can ignore negative reviews. If you're paid in praise, a single ill-natured, ill-considered, ignorant, mean, or tactless person can wipe out all your profits. I don't know whether writers are more prone to remember condemnation and forget approval than the rest of the population; but we are awfully bad about it as a group.

So I'll resist the temptation to bang my head against the desk, start a sim blog, and channel all my storytelling talents into shilling for approving comments in that niche market(a couple of people have asked me to start simblogging, but I tell myself they're just being nice and I wouldn't be able to amass much of a following anyway), and get that story back into the mail. Tomorrow morning. I swear.

And come to think of it, I do have at least one other story I could send to that market that just rejected me...


  1. Rejections suck. But I've asked you to sim blog and you'd be great at it! I am NOT just being nice. :-)

  2. I bet you offer chocolate to people who're trying to lose weight, too! :)

  3. I just got my first rejection from an online magazine. Turns out e-rejections are crummy, too.

  4. Yeah; the market may feel less real, but rejection's rejection, regardless. Back into the mail with it, chop chop!