Sunday, November 11, 2007

A blast from the past

I was doing a Google search of my name...I do it to look for reviews of my, really I do...when I came across an old article I had written for the very first Halloween issue of Expressions Newsletter. This was many, many, many, many years ago. Since it's about writing, I thought I'd share it with my blog readers...


By J Alan Erwine

The door creaks open slowly as you turn the key, knowing that what you don't want to see is there. You take a deep breath as you reach in, hand trembling slightly. Suddenly, breath held in terror, you pull out that which you feared. It's a manila envelope, and it feels thick. Your story is back with a rejection.

All of us have felt this at one time or another...some of us have experienced it so many times, we're now immune to the feeling. So, what do you do?

What you don't do is write the editor telling him or her how you feel about them and their entire lineage. That's a sure-fire way to get yourself black-balled from that publication, and possibly many others. Remember, a lot of editors know a lot of other editors! The only thing you really can do is read the rejection letter, take what you can from it, make any changes to the story you need to, and send it back out. Then, you sit back and wait for the cold sweat to return again as you wait for the next time you're going to stick your hand in that mailbox.

Something that's very important to remember is that editors aren't evil demons sitting behind a desk waiting to reject you, your story, and your progeny (at least, most of them aren't.) An editor is just a person whose doing a job that they hopefully enjoy. Their main goal is to put out a quality product, and as such, they can be your best friend...or at least someone who can help you.

One thing many authors fear is the cover letter. When you write the cover letter, the most important thing is to let a bit of your personality show through. Don't send a letter that sounds as stale as last month's bread. Your cover letter reflects your abilities as a writer, and some publishers don't get past the cover letter. If you don't grab them right away, get ready for rejection.

By the same token, don't try to oversell the story. Don't tell the editor that the story they're about to read is the greatest masterpiece since Hemingway. Nobody likes a braggart, and if you're like 99.999% of the writers out there, your story will not be better than Hemingway.

Give a simple sentence on what the story is about, and why you wrote it, but like I said earlier, let your personality show through. If you don't have one, go to a costume shop and rent one.

The biggest fear of any writer, and you won't realize this until it happens to you, comes about when your wonderful story comes out, and it's been completely butchered by the editor. I speak from personal experience as one of, what I consider my best stories, had this very thing happen to it. There were numerous typos, and even two paragraphs left out. They weren't necessarily important was only the climax of the story.

What do you do when this happens? Rant and rave, but don't kick the cat or dog...they will get even! Then, you sit down and write a polite letter to the editor. Keep all the anger inside because it's not going to help any. If they don't do anything to correct the problem to your satisfaction, don't ever submit to that publisher again.

In my case, the publication folded before they put out another issue. I'd like to say that I didn't take joy in that, but I'm only human.

I could go on about avoiding ghoulish publishers, but maybe that will be for another issue. For now, remember that as an aspiring author, you're going to encounter more tricks than treats early on, but once you start receiving those treats, they're better than anything you can imagine.

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