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britlitfantw
07-24-2005, 06:11 AM
Hello to all of you ... well, I sent out some chapters from Believe It, and I got one response back last week. Anyone care to help me decipher this and tell whether it's just normal, if my writing really isn't that great, or if it's actually a good rejection ... if that makes any sense. =) The first part is very much a form letter until you get to the area where the editor checks off one or more of a list of possibilities for rejection. For me, this one was checked.

"The subject matter/characters/theme did not hold our interest sufficiently."

And then below, a handwritten bit.

"The quality of the writing is fine but the storyline simply did not engage me in any meaningful way."

Hmm ... any thoughts? I'm thinking it's just a personal interest thing and that my writing might still have a chance with other publishers as-is.

Jamesaritchie
07-24-2005, 06:22 AM
Hello to all of you ... well, I sent out some chapters from Believe It, and I got one response back last week. Anyone care to help me decipher this and tell whether it's just normal, if my writing really isn't that great, or if it's actually a good rejection ... if that makes any sense. =) The first part is very much a form letter until you get to the area where the editor checks off one or more of a list of possibilities for rejection. For me, this one was checked.

"The subject matter/characters/theme did not hold our interest sufficiently."

And then below, a handwritten bit.

"The quality of the writing is fine but the storyline simply did not engage me in any meaningful way."

Hmm ... any thoughts? I'm thinking it's just a personal interest thing and that my writing might still have a chance with other publishers as-is.

It always possible another agent or editor will like the story, so don't give up too fast. But do remember that it isn't the quality of the writing that sells novels, it's the quality of the story and the characters. Pretty much anyone can be taught to write a good sentence, but writing a good story, drawing three dimensional character, and having these characters peak good dialogue is a much tougher task.

I'd say send it out again, but keep what this agent said firmly in mind. If you receive other responses that are similar, you know what the problem is, and what to work on.

britlitfantw
07-24-2005, 08:57 AM
That makes sense - thank you very much for your help.

blacbird
07-25-2005, 07:59 AM
Two things:

First, those phrases are very much boiler-plate reject jargon, whether they appear hand-written or not. So don't angst about them longer than it takes to drink a pint of beer (. . . umm, I originally mis-typed that as a "pit of beer", which might be Freudian).

Second, James is exactly correct, and is experienced enough to know. This was one person's view, and it quite easily might be due to them having a full plate of acceptable submissions, and simply not receptive to more. Move on to others.

bird

sunandshadow
07-25-2005, 08:20 AM
I've actually rejected stories for that reason myself when I was on a literary magazine selection committee. Occasionally you see stories (especially action, humor, or sff wish fullfillment stories) where there is no underlying point, or the underlying point is totally cliche and dull. Britlitfantw, I couldn't say whether your story was like this without seeing it, but try asking one of your beta readers what the point of the story is, and if they can't tell you, the story concept might need to go back to the drawing board. But I also agree with the first 2 responses, it might just have been that editor's personal taste and another editor will 'get' what you are trying to do better.

britlitfantw
08-05-2005, 07:32 AM
Hmm ... all very good points. I was leaning towards the idea of personal interest myself, but it could very well be that it might not be as clearly written as I had thought. I'm still waiting on a response from one more publisher and if they say 'nay' as well, then I'll grab my beta reader and ask them that question.


Thanks very much for your help! :)

Jamesaritchie
08-06-2005, 12:56 AM
I've actually rejected stories for that reason myself when I was on a literary magazine selection committee. Occasionally you see stories (especially action, humor, or sff wish fullfillment stories) where there is no underlying point, or the underlying point is totally cliche and dull. Britlitfantw, I couldn't say whether your story was like this without seeing it, but try asking one of your beta readers what the point of the story is, and if they can't tell you, the story concept might need to go back to the drawing board. But I also agree with the first 2 responses, it might just have been that editor's personal taste and another editor will 'get' what you are trying to do better.

Ah, those "wish fulfillment" stories. They come in every genre, every style, and even when well-written, they stand no chance. Trouble is, it seems impossible to get writers to understand what a wish fulfillment story is, what they're doing wrong, and how to get away from it.

David McAfee
08-06-2005, 06:21 AM
Ah, those "wish fulfillment" stories. They come in every genre, every style, and even when well-written, they stand no chance. Trouble is, it seems impossible to get writers to understand what a wish fulfillment story is, what they're doing wrong, and how to get away from it.

Um.... care to enlighten someone who has only just now heard (ok, read) the term "wish fulfillment stories" for the very first time?

sunandshadow
08-06-2005, 08:18 AM
A wish fullfillment story is a story which is written to fulfill the author's wishes. They put a character (often the author thinly disguised, aka a Mary Sue or Marty Stu) into a situation which gives the character something the author lacks in real life: sex, magical powers, an opportunity to get revenge, ego-flattering sycophants, etc. But since the author doesn't want to make life difficult for the character, there's no conflict. Since the author things he/she is perfect, the character doesn't learn any lessons or go through any personal growth. And often readers find the main character totally unsympathetic and annoying.

Jamesaritchie
08-06-2005, 08:20 AM
Um.... care to enlighten someone who has only just now heard (ok, read) the term "wish fulfillment stories" for the very first time?

Let me see if I can explain this. It ain't easy, but here goes. A wish fulfillment story is one written without any real theme or depth. It's really a surface level story, though the writer will swear it isn't. And the protagonist in the story is living through something the writer would love to live through himself.

Wish fulfillment stories also will probably have a "Mary Sue" character as a protagonist who is, even if the writer won't admit it, or doesn't realize it, the writer in disguise. The story is basically an adventure of some sort that the writer would love to live through himself.

And cop outs such as, "The character got shot in the arm," or "The character's best friend got killed," do not count.

You need to ask yourself: 1. Is the protagonist a "Mary Sue" character? 2. Is this story an adventure I would enjoy living trhough myself? 3. Is there are real depth to the story? 4. Does the protagonist suffer, and suffer means more than some physical pain, and does he grow?

SF and fantasy editors reveive a dispropotionate number of wish fulfillment stories, but every editor in every genre that has anything to do with action/adventure, or sex, receives far too many such stories.

And contrary to what those who try to defend wish fulfillment stories try to say, no, all fiction that lasts is NOT wish fulfillment in disguise. That's absolute bull$#%&*. Just the opposite. Good fiction is always more than surface level adventure that anyone would want to live through.

triceretops
08-06-2005, 08:40 AM
Hmm. Interesting about the definition of a "wish fulfillment" story. I've never heard of it and it's enlightening to know of this. Yes, my first impression of that checkoff box problem was that the goal in the story was not really worthwhile and that the sacrifice to attain it was not sufficiently compellling. But keep in mind, this is very subjective and given by one editor. You definitely have to have several critiques to get a true overview. Other editors or agents that cite the same problem will direct you to a weakness in the story you might have.

Everything can be salvaged and beefed up, or cut and pruned. No script is really dead, only limping, or nearly crippled in some cases.

Wait this one out and gather some more replies. Good luck, and good hunting.

Tri

britlitfantw
08-06-2005, 09:00 AM
Well, the overall outline of the story is as follows:



One of the MCís best friends ends up in a coma, and the MC and other best friend have to deal with the aftermath. In the meantime, MC is also struggling with the need to do something for herself and make a decision for herself, though making the decisions she wants to make for herself means defying her mother, who has spent much of her life trying to control her daughter. In the end, MC goes to university overseas as she believes is best for her, and has tried to makeup with her mother though she isnít really that receptive to it.



So, in answer to those questions:




The MC is a work-a-holic, occasionally says the wrong thing at the wrong time, differs between obeying her parents and doing whatís right for her. Sheís stubborn, and there was a certain incident in her past where she saw a hit-and-run accident but didnít report it because she was too scared.
No way! a) I wouldnít want my best friend in a coma. b) Iím very much a Ďrootsí person and feel a strong tie to family and such, and would hate quarrelling with them.
I think there is, but that may just be my perception.
Definitely. Sheís damned if she goes, damned if she doesnít. Itís not an easy choice, and either way brings consequences.


Well, thatís just my take on this Ö any other comments? (though this thread has been more than helpful already) And if something about the way I phrased this post sounded rude, my apologies.

Jamesaritchie
08-06-2005, 09:21 AM
Hmm. Interesting about the definition of a "wish fulfillment" story. I've never heard of it and it's enlightening to know of this.

It surprises me how many writers haven't heard the definition of a wish fulfillment story, or even the phrase itself. It's certainly something most editors learn about the first time they look at a slush pile.

I've seen many rejection slips with the phrase scribbled on it, and have passed out a few myself. I also received one from Geroge Scithers many years ago, and he didn't have to tell me twice.

"Wish fulfillment" has been writen about in innumerable articles, and one of it's main uses the last few years has been from the pens of critics and reviewers to put down novels, or even whole genres. Ignore them. They usually blithering idiots.

triceretops
08-06-2005, 09:35 AM
Brit, I'll take a shot at this one. This sounds like a mere (almost normal) family conflict. I perceive the only goal is for the MC to fight for her independence and jam off to a university. There is where your goal and theme come into play. Now, if your MC had been fighting the system or doctors to keep the coma-ridden person on life support, instead of leaving her to die,(like that Terry Chivo case), and she succeeded in fighting for this cause, and winning in the end, then you could assume that this plot was much more dynamic, tension-riveting, fulfilling etc. Especially if the coma person awakened and recouped to live a normal and rewarding life--all because of the efforts put forth by the MC. (Tons of spirituality and self-sacrifice here).

Do you see the sense of urgency in this story. Can you imagine the great sacrifices and the spiritual conflict that the MC would have to contend with to save her friend? This is no beef with the parents, or question of independence--this is a hellacious fight to the end for life itself.

Now that was only an example of a gripping scenario. Agents and editors have been telling me for years (laughingly), Chris, if you don't have a "save the world" idea, we'd much rather pass on it. Don't take this to literally, it only means that your character must fight lions, and tigers, and bears--and oh, my! And I hope she makes it through that nasty forest, and reaches that unbelieveably, unattainable goal.

What if your MC's parents hated her boyfriend, and that because of it, the boyfriend took off to another country, crushed and disheartened by lies or rumors the the parents spread, which unfairly branded him a cheat for imposter. But we find out that this boyfriend is really a duke or prince or something, only she doesn't know this, but seeks him out for just the person he is. I know, I know. A Cinderella story in disguise. But I think you get my meaning.

This is just my two dumb centavos. Perhaps another member can explain this better. Good luck, dear, and certainly don't give up on this.

Tri

triceretops
08-06-2005, 10:25 AM
James, I agree. I know the technique, just haven't heard of the term before. I'm 17 years away from writing, so that term might have popped up in that period. If it's always been there, then I missed it. Do you know what I called it back then? It's not totally accurate because it means something else, but it ball-parked it for me:

Author intrusion

Now I think the true definiton of intrusion relates to inserting one's polictical beliefs, religious leans, sexism, and many other little personal quirks. Even an awkward style in the text that flags a reader's attention is enough for the reader to stop and give pause, saying, "Ah, author, I seeeeee...youuuuuuu." Killing the suspension of disbelief also qualifies.

An author who jumps into the story in an attempt to live-it-out would also qualify (for me anyway) of a form of intrusive behavior. I know darn well when I see the author on stage in any given book, and by that I mean I can spot him/her without any question in my mind. You know who got away with this the most? Bob Heinlein. Look at his male protags. However, I was willing to gloss over it because of his strong storylines.

I've also noticed that first person singular is a very heady wine for a new and young writer. I can almost guarantee that the author will perform on stage in some degree, or in many cases, inclusively. It's true that all of us as authors shine through our hero/heroine to some degree. It's when we try to marry it to a personal incident or life crisis (really a non-fic memoir) in our lives that we end up with a manuscript that is mediocre, at best.

The truth of the matter is, unless we're serial killers, pop stars, politians, or ex-presidents, our lives and struggles are really pretty much middle-of-the-road tales, because we have all suffered the same pangs and woes.

Twenty five years ago my father and I were stepping into a cross-walk, exiting my first A-league softball game, when we were both struck down by a truck (a kid on meth). I was a cop at the time. I lived. Dad died horribly. I always thought about writing a book about this tragic affair, but realised that is was not an uncommon occurance for something to happen like this to a nobody like me. I nixed the idea, because it would have been a hard sell. That's always been the reality of publishing. Sadly, do you know where a heck of a lot of those types of tales end up. PA has got cartloads of them. And such a book can be benificial to purge the soul--but a tragic happenstance in one person's life, does not a complelling story make. There are exceptions, of course.

That's why fiction is fiction. B. Baily said it best, "Ladies and gentlemen, and children of all...ages, prepare yourselves for THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH!"

Always give em' more than they came to see. The act in the third ring pales in significance to the show's grand finale. And we must deliver, as writers, the impossible, that non-stop crescendo of wonder and amazement--a thrill ride that lifts your heart or chills your spine until, ultimately, our memories have been seared by a branding iron, and we're not ever likely to forget what we just saw/read. I liken it to a "My God, what just happened to me?" response.

Anyway, I'll shut up.

Tri

britlitfantw
08-08-2005, 01:32 AM
Okay, the first word coming to mind is: wow. Somehow in that post, you were able to make me see my story in a different light. And youíre right Ė often I think we can write something and think itís an enormous struggle, but really, it pales in comparison to other things. Thatís not to say that struggling with a parent is not hard, but in a way it takes importance away from the girl in the coma. This is actually the 1st in a trilogy (ambitious, I know) and the second book, I think, is more edgy. The girl is still in a coma, and instead the MC is the other best friend. Our MC from book one is at university, itís two years after the last one ended, and our new MC is balancing a floundering freelance career (including a new internship), the girl in a coma getting sick and almost dying, and the fact that someone he cared about more than anyone, but left him behind, has returned (his sister). So itís definitely got more conflict, and I have to say Iím looking forward to writing that one more than I did look forward to this one. Granted, there were scenes in this first one that I loved writing, but some of them were just there because they had to be there to explain things. Iím almost wondering about making it a TWO book series, starting with the one Iím planning to start soon, and leaving out the first one Ö the hard part with that is the background. But it definitely might work better.



In the meantime, I have a fantasy novel on the go which is whizzing out of my fingertips and Iím very proud of it! :) Iíve put this other series on the back burner for now, so to speak. Thanks to all of you for your help, and listening to my long-windedness.