Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Rejection Slips and the Lamenting of Passing Markets

I’ve mentioned before that I have only four manuscripts out. Yes, that’s right. Four. I know it doesn’t seem like many, but I’m coming up with new things daily and I’m building upon those at the same time I’m trying to find a home for my finished work. I get to experience a little bit of each stage of the small press publishing process all at the same time and it feels kind of nice. This isn’t some sort of special routine, though, as I’m fairly sure that most (if not all) competent and disciplined writers operate this way.

I got my first few rejection slips this week. I feel kind of odd about them.

The first was from McSweeney’s. My short detective fiction story, In My Office, was apparently not a good fit. I should probably have researched a bit more before I submitted, as they are more of a publisher of conceptual humor than anything else. I’ve resubmitted it to a neat British website of classic and new short fiction called East of the Web.

Tabard Inn liked my short suicide jumper story Commute. Unfortunately, it was too “ordinary” and wasn’t of questionable taste. I really like this rejection slip, simply because Mr. Bruni commented on the story itself and the ending in particular. I really appreciate it when I get more than a “no” or a form letter. I can handle a simple rejection, but this slip implies to me that my competence isn’t the issue, and also that if I write something a bit bawdier I might be able to find a home for it here. I think I’m going to buy Issue Two of this magazine, just because I like it so much. And the editor/owner signs the inside covers of the copies to make it a bit more personal. A nice touch, I think.

The Woman Without, my lesbian succubus “erotic horror” story (and the predecessor to my NaNo idea) is still out for consideration at Horrotica, as is The Orchard at Talebones. I’m looking forward to hearing back from these publishers.

It seems to me that a lot of horror small press magazines have gone missing in the interim years that I neglected to write. Shadow Feast, home to my story Shika: The High Price of Life, is gone as is Wicked Mystic, the magazine that went from Xerox-grade digest to glossy-covered behemoth. The Nocturnal Lyric has gone to annual and all those small startups that were in past editions of the Novel and Short Story Writers’ Market have vanished. I feel bad. All this I could have had played a part in, even if it was just to receive a rejection slip, and it’s gone. I’m happy to see that The Nocturnal Lyric is still kicking, though. I believe my first story ever was published there.

And now, onto something a bit more personal and a whole lot more frustrating.

I can’t outline a plot for shit. It doesn’t matter if it’s a novel or a short story. I can come up with characters and an idea of what happens, at least the beginning and the end, but all that happens in the interim is blank. When I go to put the story down on paper, once I get past where I’ve developed the plot, I either freeze or I keep going and turn it into absolute dreck. I hate it. This is going on right now with two stories I’m working on, three if you count Pages, the story I put down a couple weeks ago to focus shorter writing exercises. Unfortunately, the so-called shorter stories took on lives of their own and are now stalling out on me. I’m about to introduce aliens hiding inside pumpkins in the form of mold in one story, but I can’t decide on why they’re even there, how they communicate or how to get rid of them. In the other, I’ve managed to take my two underage-looking vampire girls to Hong Kong in pursuit of pedophiles to snack on, eventually hoping to get them to rural Thailand, but they’re stuck in a nighttime ghetto after getting off a human trafficker’s ship. Yesterday’s wonderful suicide website idea is still in the planning stages because I’ll be damned if I let this one get waylaid by poor planning. That and Eric, my boyfriend and strongest supporter, thinks it would make a great novel. I’m still sold on the short story idea but we’ll see how it works itself out.

T-minus one week until the start of NaNo and my novel idea isn’t completely fleshed out, either. I’m not especially worried about that because part of the draw of something like NaNo is that I will be focused on quantity over quality, with an opportunity to edit later on. I suppose I could do this with everything I write, but I prefer a bit more discipline and a whole lot less free-form rambling. Without discipline I’d never get anything done. I’ve learned that the hard way.

I’ve also noticed how little time I actually have. How am I supposed to work all night, exercise, brainstorm, write, read fiction manuals AND fiction for pleasure and get enough time to sleep a decent amount before lathering, rinsing and repeating? Am I going to have to cut out all extra activities, like reading the news or sending Instant Messages? Am I going to have to cut back on my sleep and run the risk of passing out at my desk at 4 AM like I used to? Should I start up a meth habit just to get this all done?

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