Sporadic thoughts about writing and the business of writing
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Worse Than None at All
The anniversary of transition fulltime to writing is almost upon me. It’s been a great year. I’ve found out a lot about my work habits. I’ve learned how many hours a day I can reliably devote to creating new material, what I need to produce to feel good about myself, and the absolute minimum effort required for the business side. (The three-sentence, query-letter summary of a novel which took five years to write felt more difficult than writing the novel itself.)
In the last ten months, I’ve completed the aforementioned science fiction novel which I’m currently shopping to agents and publishers. I’ve also started a fantasy novel I’d been thinking about for years. As of this writing, I’ve passed fifty thousand words, and have about two thirds of the plot yet to come. The other thing I’ve been doing is writing and submitting short stories to themed collections, genre web sites, and the occasional contest.
The best thing about these short story forums (other than the satisfaction of getting published) is the feedback from passionate and experienced professionals. The first of the fantasy stories published (even though it was the second accepted – publishing isn’t exactly a fast-moving business) in 2019 was rejected by another contest but included feedback from several editors. The direction I received was a primary contributor to accetance on the next submission.
I’m surprised to find feedback from editors and beta readers (LOVE EVERY LAST ONE OF YOU) on writing easier to accept than it ever was while I was in tech. Maybe I won’t feel that way in twenty years. I hope there’s enough success ahead for me to find out.
The downside to the process is a small but significant portion of the feedback is awful. Not awful in the work gets torn apart for being bad, awful in that the feedback is wrong – as in incorrect. The first time this happened I was embarrased and found myself pouring over a short to try and find where I’d made the grave error of “problems with verb tense changes”. Hours later, I un-hunched myself from the obsessive editing posture with plenty of improvements to the story but not one problem with verb tense.
I’ve since encountered this type of feedback, where it is clear the editor never read the story, more often than I would have guessed. I’ve concluded (or chosen to believe) it has more to do with overworked and overexposed editors. It’s easier to read the first sentence or two, and copy and paste comment block number seven rather than invest time in something they already believe they’ve seen a hundred times.
I can sympathize with an editor feeling like their time is being wasted, but sending copy-and-paste feedback causing authors to look for problems which don’t exist is worse than no feedback at all.
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