Just so you don’t misunderstand, I should start by saying that this update is true. The “Fiction” in the title applies to my desire to try my hand at writing fiction; it’s not a fictional update. I thought I could bring you up to date this week on my efforts so far.
As I said I’m going to focus on short stories. This has the advantage of letting my try out different styles to see what works for me. This is better than trying to write a long novel which wouldn’t give me that flexibility.
I’ve already got two stories that I had written which I consider complete and I am working on several others. The two stories I have already done were ones I had written for classes at the Loft (www.loft.org) in Minneapolis. That was good for me as I received feedback from the teaching artists on the stories. I made some modifications and improved the stories from what I had originally written.
One of the stories is science fiction and is about 7,000 words in length. The other story is what is known as flash fiction – stories are less than 1,000 words. I’ve been submitting both to various magazines for publication. I’ve also been getting rejected by various magazines. Nine times and counting. I’m getting better at letting them not bother me. It’s mostly a pretty impersonal process. You submit online and get a link where you can check on your story’s status. Some magazine’s send an email when they make their decision while some just update the status online.
I did get a response from Flash Fiction Online (www.flashfictiononline.com) that was personalized and it made me feel pretty good. They told me that, “Your story did … reach the final stage of our selection process--one among an elite group. Less than 5% of stories make it this far. That is no small feat.” So, top 5% for one my first stories. Woo Hoo!
Their email also said that the stories that make it to the final stage are discussed before they make final selections. If I was interested in seeing what was said about my story I could send an email to the editor. I sent off the email.
Two days later I got an email with the feedback. The email started with some warnings. At that stage they look for reasons to not to accept. The comments were off the cuff, based on a first reading and might be disappointing in their tone. But, of course, that didn’t apply to me. I was in the top 5%, so there couldn’t be anything wrong with my story.
Oh, how wrong I was. There were 11 different comments about the story. First of all, these were notes of people discussing my story without me present. So, the comments were unvarnished and direct. They picked my story apart. They thought the plot was obvious, they didn’t like the ending, they didn’t like the style. Each comment became “they” and not one person’s opinion.
I no longer felt like I was in the top 5%. I felt like if I were in Lake Wobegon, I would have been kicked out for being below average.
I set the story aside for a while, about a month. When I came back to it I read the feedback notes again. I was surprised to find that there were complimentary things said about my story. It felt like many of the negative comments could be addressed by changing the ending. One of the comments had sparked an idea about a change I could make to the ending. I rewrote the ending and changed a bit of the middle to set up the new ending. Then I started submitting it again. And getting rejected again.
It’s been an interesting process. While rejection looks to be the thread running through this all, there’s another piece that I didn’t talk about that’s also a persistent part of this. That piece is hope. When life deals you setbacks and blows, don’t worry about what other’s think of you and what you do. Focus on your hopes.
Tim Kane's memories, musings and updates.