The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Archive for January 2020

“Please Stop Giving Me Feedback”

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This has nothing to do with my story. It’s just what comes up when you image search the name of my story on Google.

Publishing fate has smiled upon me once again, though in the eight months since I’ve gotten so much as a wink, I was wondering if I’d ever get published again (count ’em:  30 rejections since then).  Scribble came through, liking my flash fiction “Third Night.”  So now at least I can commend Scribble for their exquisite taste and poo-poo the others for just not “getting” me.  That’s what writers do:  Blame everybody but ourselves, and once we do land a piece talk endlessly about how we alone believed.

That last part is not exactly hyperbole.

Starting back in November, 2018, this piece got rejected nine times.  Twice by the same publication, which I’ll talk about in a minute.  I didn’t give up on it, though, rather liking the diction device that was driving the narrative and having worked too hard on the damned device to let the piece go.  It wasn’t until I work-shopped it with the talented flash writer / yoga queen / cabaret singer Nancy Stohlman last summer at Shadowcliff that it broke through.  I sent it to two publications, and one gobbled it up by the next day (I absolutely love it when that happens!).

At some point during the workshop, I showed Nancy the rejection and feedback I got on the piece, starting last year around this time.  Every Day Fiction was interested, but told me at first that it was too much of an isolated scene and didn’t show character development.  “There’s hardly any story tension,” was the line I found most helpful, though a point about the narrator being in much the same state at the end as he was at the beginning was also helpful.  I was happy for this feedback.  I told my Creative Writing students that I was excited because I was about to learn something new about writing and I was more than willing to make the effort.

So I rewrote and resubmitted, fingers crossed.  What I got back was complete bullshit.  It’s a lot to get into here, but one of the oddest parts was the religious overtone to the feedback, with the reader seeing Nina as both “devil and saint” to the narrator.  Also, he couldn’t follow the narrative as it was laid out (not what the previous reader had said at all…).  Later he commented about the title:  “…the three days it took Jesus to rise from the dead…  If you mean to be indicating some sort of resurrection that is fine, but the story here doesn’t feel nearly that epic.”

Yeah.  No shit.  Because it’s not.  Flash fiction is rarely epic, what with the thousand word goal being rather restrictive as far as penning an “epic” goes (“Third Night,” btw, is 618 words).  And note:  the story has absolutely nothing to do with religion.  At all.  In any way.

So I decided fuck Every Day Fiction.  I’d rather sit on an unpublished story than deal with such asshattery, even if they’re the only ones interested.  This is not a decision I came by easily, being a writer who is always eager to reach publication and who hasn’t walked away from the rare opportunities.  Fortunately, I only had to sit on my egg for about four months until the story was resurrected.  Also, it was Nancy who, upon seeing the feedback from Every Day Fiction, quipped “Please stop giving me feedback!”

So I got published.  Yay!  Looking back on my writing process, I started the whole thing in my tiny bedside journal on July 20, 2018.  I had been reading a piece by Amy Hempel, and something triggered in my mind about not being able to describe things in terms you want to, but only by saying the opposite.  So I started to write that way.  My third and fourth lines read “Nina pours me a bowl of cereal and I tell her the milk tastes not spoiled and how I like the sound of the cereal when I bite it.  It’s not soggy.”  So there was my diction device, and I knew that if I was going to use that device that I had to have a reason for the narrator to be speaking like that.  Pretty soon a domestic abuse thread unspooled in my head, but with a subversion of expectations:  The man was not the aggressor.  Brain damage can justify linguistic difficulties, so that was an early notion that I sustained throughout.  The narrator had been struck hard enough by his girlfriend that he ended up in the hospital.

One thing that absolutely did not work, and that I got rid of pretty quickly, was the idea that the narrator was getting handjobs from the night nurse in the hospital and he wanted to stay there as a means of getting back at Nina.  But, no.  The diction device was going to be hard enough to sell without the manual relief angle.  So I got rid of that.  Sadly, you sometimes have to exercise good judgment when you’re a writer.

We’ll see what comes up next.  Might as well keep writing since I’ve found my touch again, if only temporarily.  I have about 7 pieces out there right now waiting for acceptance or maybe some feedback to reach acceptance.  Just not at Every Day Fiction.

 

Written by seeker70

January 18, 2020 at 4:45 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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