Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Some Good News, Some Not-so-bad News

Okay. The good news is that marguerite has come out with news on FHM Philippines' upcoming erotic literary section (via charles). Me, I'm just reporting this-- but I can say that I had no idea on what to write and I just wrote it. She sez:

In the next week or so, FHM Philippines will release their first-ever erotica anthology in bookstores and rag stands throughout the metro. What makes this collection extra-tasty is that each writer was delegated a particular genre. A nifty sex story sampler, if you will. The round-up is as follows: Carljoe Javier for sci-fi, Karl de Mesa for horror, Anna Sanchez for mainstream erotica, Norman Wilwayco for transgressive fic in Filipino, me for transgressive fic in English, Joey Nacino for fantasy, and Lourd de Veyra and Ramil Digal Gulle for poetry. Go grab a copy, you sick fucks.

Standby in hopes of securing a pic of the cover. (But if you spot it before me, send me an alert, will ya?)

For the not-so-bad news, slush editor nick mamatas of Clarkesworld rejected my short story submission but I was very happy to receive his comments because-- hell, we've always wondered why we receive rejections and at least nick makes the effort to explain why. Here's his letter:

Joseph,
Thanks, but not for us. The setting was far more interesting than the protagonist. Writers have a difficult row to hoe when they start writing about very successful writers with writerly problems such as muses and writer's block. It fairly stinks of wish-fulfillment. Even well-regarded writers such as Harlan Ellison tend to take the opportunity for self-aggrandizement as he did in "All The Lies That Are My Life" (which parts of your story superficially resemble). We were much more interested in the idea of aswangs at call centers than in Alfaro's problems.

Also, this story was far too long for its actual content, thanks in part of Alfaro's carrying on. It was well-written, but certainly didn't need chapter breaks (rather portentous for anything short of a novella or an experimental piece). You run into the problem of writing a competent if mediocre story about how awesome stories are.

PS: Two quick notes: 1. No need to justify genre or other choices in a cover letter. If it's not in the text, all the special pleading in the world will not help. 2. Sorry for the delay in our response. One editor instituted a secret filing system without briefing the editor. Your story was, essentially, filed under "Lost, Subject to Rumor" until just now.

Personally, I love receiving critical and fresh perspectives on what I write (yo, skinny!) because-- for example, in this particular rejection, I have an idea why the story is or isn't working. Moreover, if the comments come from an editor, I also get an idea on what stories the said editor is looking for.

And nick was also nice enough to answer my question on the use of breaks in a short story:

Hi Joseph,
I don't normally follow-up on the rejection slips, but since publishing Kristin's story everyone in the Phillipines has been sending me something, so I figure you all must hang out and compare notes, so it's like talking to twenty people at onc. This appeals to my sense of efficiency and my enormous ego both. Also, all the Filipino stories I've read have been pretty good; much better per story than the American junk, which are mostly just rewritten movies.

I would make a distinction between a line break, a scene break, and a chapter break, even if they all serve the same purpose -- to skip over something, recharge the reader, and signal a transition. A line break (or an extra line break;one more carriage return) is a mild transition. Putting in a # or other doodad is a signal of a greater break. A chapter break is a greatest of all. Take this line:

"You'll never take me alive, imperialist pigs!" Joseph shouted, raising his AK.

Now, two carriage returns:

Later that night, in prison, Joseph tried to enjoy his salisbury steak.

A bit of a transition. Not too much. Now with a doodad #

At Joseph's funeral, his son, Joseph Jr. vowed revenge on America.

Now with a portentous chapter break.

II.
Harvey always enjoyed Martyr's Day. The government not only outfitted him with slightly longer leg irons for the holiday, it also let him eat all the pigeons he could kill as part of their statuary protection program.

Seem that all the busts of Joseph — Leader, Founder, and Father of all us — made
a more popular toilet than anything else. Harvey wondered if there wasn't something in the way the bronze of Joseph's bald head gleamed under the sun.

See? Link tends to write longer stories and have pretty profound changeups when she uses chapter breaks. It's not only a deep breath for her, it's often a radical change of thematic position, even if it's not a change of subject or speaker. Read 'em again and I think you'll see what I mean.

Also, of course you can post the rejection slip or, for that matter, this.

Reading something like this is akin to knowing how a car works (i.e. combustion engine) but nick's explanation is like an actual graphical display on the engine itself. Excellent, excellent advice really.

2 comments:

JHS - aka Lucretia/Luke said...

i haven't been here for a very, very long time ... and as always, you manage to astound me immediately. First off i can only say 'hats off' to you for publishing the rejection slip (and discussion) on your blog, very insightful and helpful and really humble of you to do this, you are a completely awesome person; second, i haven't gotten around to figuring out why you are leaving your 8 year stint - my wish is only good things for you in the future ... may your light continue to shine. Go well

banzai cat said...

Hey luke! Long time no see indeed! What's up with you now? :-D

Well, it's really nothing big for me on the rejection slip: think of it as a free critique of the work. And really, it IS a criticism of the work, not the person. So why should I be bothered, right? :-)