Monday, February 2, 2009

Stand and Deliver

emotion--a feeling or combination of sensations which lead to a mood or an attitude; the result of events, stimuli, and interactions; possible results of memory, thought, or association which may be pleasing, distasteful, or ominous.

Emotions are triggered by experience, whether the result of direct action, contemplation, or analogy. These sensory and perhaps sensual results are among the principal goals to be achieved in story; a story that does not evoke emotion is placing itself in the metaphorical third balcony, some distance away from the performance.

The fact of a reader seeing or understanding the intended emotional content is not sufficient; the reader is entitled by having read the story to feel the resident emotional tones.

rejection--an arbitrary condition arising when a publisher declines an offered work; a situation wherein a writer loses enthusiasm for a project and either shelves or discards it; a work that has been denied entry for idiosyncratic, judgmental, or technical reasons. The experiential sense achieved by an author that certain publications, publishing individuals, and random other individuals are not moved by his work. An author, editor, or publisher in a state of denial.

It is the rare writer who has no experience with having a work refused, either in terms of representation by a literary agent or publication from an editorial representative of a publishing venture; rarer yet is the writer who has had no work returned with a memo of notes for revision. Rarest of all is the writer who has not of his or her own accord set a manuscript aside as being unworkable or uninteresting. All these are examples of rejection. Similarly, a note from a publisher's representative expressing great admiration for a work but nevertheless returning it because of its thematic resemblance to a recently published work is still rejection. A note from a publisher accompanying a rejected manuscript and as well inviting the writer to submit more work is--rejection.

An author, standing in a book store while watching a prospective reader pick up his or her book, thumb through several pages, then set the book back on the shelf, is witnessing rejection of yet another sort.

"There are fifteen types of rejection in connection with writing," Santa Barbara Writers' Conference Director, Barnaby Conrad said, addressing an auditorium filled with attendees. From the voluminous depths of his blazer pocket, he produced an index card from which he was about to read examples, but before he was able to begin, a voice from the rear boomed, "Sixteen."

Ever the polite one, Conrad smiled, nodded. "As I was saying, there are fifteen specific types of rejection." Squinting at the index card for a moment, he continued. "The first instance of rejection is when a writer submits a manuscript electronically or by postal mail and it is subsequently rejected."

Once again the voice from the rear of the auditorium blared forth. "Seventeen!"

Rejection is a living presence in every writer's calculus; even if the writer were to forswear submissions, it could be successfully argued that the writer was rejecting himself. Responses to rejection vary from anger to mild annoyance to conspiracy theory; all of these conditions may or may not be justified but they may all produce the side effect of listening to and agreeing with the Inner Critic, the symptoms of which prevent the writer from writing.

There probably are successful writers who believe their abilities have evolved enough; they accordingly do not worry about becoming better at their craft. The greater number of writers burn off considerable calories with concern about their developmental progress. This is as it should be.

Some letters or notes of rejection address flaws as seen by the rejector. Unless you, the writer, see some way to enhance the effectiveness of the work, or unless a particular editor offers publication of your work if a specific change is effected, a four-letter Latin word, common to publishing, obtains. Stet. Let it stand.

1 comment:

Querulous Squirrel said...

I just love this piece on rejection. It is so wise and thorough. I am only now, after my terrible experience, getting ready to send my short-shorts out. Today I bought some nice paper for the cover letter, a file box for all the journals and all the pieces and where they've been. I've never been this organized about it. I just witnessed my son applying to colleges and remembered what that was like. This is nothing compared to that. And there are so many journals to choose from if you're not too picky. Someone once said: Keep sending it out. If you love it, someone else will love it too.