First Rejections

I received a rejection on Meteor Man last week. The editor wrote

I can appreciate the attention to detail in your world, but without knowing about the world or characters or what’s going on, the terminology bogs me down a bit too much.

The comment intrigued me because no first reader commented anything similar. Even first first readers – those unfamiliar with my work – didn’t make similar comments. I often gets comments about my world-building but they tend to be more like “Amazing!”, “Rich!”, “Vividly detailed!”, and “Immersive!” (one of my personal favorites).

When I do live readings of works-in-progress, I sometimes get a comment along the lines of “You do more world-building in ten pages than most authors do in the first hundred” and I should spread things out.

I ask in return, “Would you continue reading? Do you want to find out more?”

Unanimous yeses often accompanied by listeners leaning forward in their seats and sometimes by outstretched hands seeking a copy.

All of which tells me I did an excellent job world-building. If people were overwhelmed to the point of being numb, they’d back away rather than continue forward.

Two Recent Classes…
I’ve long suspected that storycrafting and storytelling aren’t the paramount reasons work is accepted or rejected.

Sadly, this was confirmed by two different classes I took over the past few weeks. The classes were from different sources and a little over a week apart. One class had an agent and a publisher, the other had two magazine editors.

I take such classes because I want to understand what got Story A accepted and Story B rejected. A con panel with editors explaining what stood out pro and con in stories from their slushpiles would be gold to me. I’d pay serious dollars to attend such a panel session.

Me, I look for common threads in everything from character to theme, action to plot, … Sometimes the common thread is obvious, other times…?

And always it comes down to “How come this and not that? Give me a list of what works and what doesn’t so I’ll have a better idea how to perfect my own work for publication.” (by the way, two books that do a great job of this are Barry Longyear’s “Science Fiction Writer’s Workshop – I: An Introduction to Fiction Mechanics” and On Writing Science Fiction: The Editors Strike Back).

Want to know what I found out?


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Attribution via Action

People who’ve worked with my in critique groups or in my trainings know about attribution via action because

  • I use it often in my own work and
  • I use it often when editing/critiquing someone’s work as it tightens scenes considerably.

Almost a year ago I wrote

The desire to have characters do something while talking is good, the execution is usually poor, and now we’re dealing with attribution via action which I’ll cover in another post.

in Toing and Froing and now, for various reasons, here’s that post.

Attribution via Action became increasingly important to me when writing my last novel, Tag. I noticed the actions I used for attribution purposes were stale, generic, didn’t apply to what happened in each scene.

I’ll defend myself with “It was a first, rough draft” which is true. I recognized the problem and made notes in the manuscript to fix it during rewrite, which I will because I tend towards anality about such things.

And still, it’s better not to have such issues in any draft, especially first drafts, as the more corrections necessary the more time taken not publishing and promoting the immediate project and all projects together.

So as I often do when I recognize a weakness in my own work, I gave myself exercises to improve my storycrafting and storytelling. In this case, use attribution via action specific to what I want the reader to experience when they read the sentence/paragraph/page/scene.

I’ve also learned from workshops and teaching that the term “attribution” isn’t in vogue any more.

Sigh.

So some definitions/explanations first.

Speech Tags
The reader has to know who’s communicating in a scene. Knowing who’s saying what is often more important that knowing what’s being said. This is done by identifying the speaker with what they’re speaking.

Words like said, talked, shared, spoke, … are now called “speech tags” and use to be called “attributions” but far be it for a writer to use a single, exact word when a weak, two word phrase can almost do the job not as well.

Said, talked, shared, spoke, … are fine words and they are weak because they lack emotional content until we use a adverb modifier such as said angrily, talked quietly, shared emphatically, spoke loudly, …

A thesaurus helps because said angrily becomes hissed, talked quietly becomes whispered, shared emphatically becomes emphasized, spoke loudly becomes shouted, … becomes … and so on.


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Things to Bring Back in Books – Tables-of-Contents

 
Jennifer “The Editress” Day sent me the above graphic from a Facebook group she’s in. She asked if I agreed with the list provided.

That set off a wonderful exploration of my thinking on these topics and caused me to defend my opinions for my own benefit (which I now share with you).

I’ll be posting one a week and started with Chapter Titles.
Next came Backcover Synopses.
Followed by Maps.
Then Character Indices of Characters and Places with Pronunciations
Last was Numbering Books in a Series on the Spine
And here we end this arc with Tables of Contents.

My first response to this as a whole is No, if the list is meant to apply universally to all books. The story and the writer’s ability to tell the story (the former, storytelling, the latter, storycrafting) determine what should go in a book.

Tables of Contents


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Members and Subscribers can LogIn. Non members can join. Non-protected posts (there are several) are available to everyone.
Want to learn more about why I use a subscription model? Read More ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes Enjoy!

Things to Bring Back in Books – Series Numbers

 
Jennifer “The Editress” Day sent me the above graphic from a Facebook group she’s in. She asked if I agreed with the list provided.

That set off a wonderful exploration of my thinking on these topics and caused me to defend my opinions for my own benefit (which I now share with you).

I’ll be posting one a week and started with Chapter Titles.
Next came Backcover Synopses.
Followed by Maps.
Then Character Indices of Characters and Places with Pronunciations
Here I consider Numbering Books in a Series on the Spine.

My first response to this as a whole is No, if the list is meant to apply universally to all books. The story and the writer’s ability to tell the story (the former, storytelling, the latter, storycrafting) determine what should go in a book.

Numbering Books in a Series on the Spine

Continue reading “Things to Bring Back in Books – Series Numbers”

Things to Bring Back in Books – Character Indices

 
Jennifer “The Editress” Day sent me the above graphic from a Facebook group she’s in. She asked if I agreed with the list provided.

That set off a wonderful exploration of my thinking on these topics and caused me to defend my opinions for my own benefit (which I now share with you).

I’ll be posting one a week and started with Chapter Titles.
Next came Backcover Synopses.
Followed by Maps.
Here I consider Character Indices of Characters and Places with Pronunciations.

My first response to this as a whole is No, if the list is meant to apply universally to all books. The story and the writer’s ability to tell the story (the former, storytelling, the latter, storycrafting) determine what should go in a book.

Character Indices of Characters and Places with Pronunciations


Greetings! I’m your friendly, neighborhood Threshold Guardian. This is a protected post. Protected posts in the My Work, Marketing, and StoryCrafting categories require a subscription (starting at 1$US/month) to access. Protected posts outside those categories require a General (free) membership.
Members and Subscribers can LogIn. Non members can join. Non-protected posts (there are several) are available to everyone.
Want to learn more about why I use a subscription model? Read More ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes Enjoy!