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Sweet rejection

December 1, 2007
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Oh well, I got my first rejection today since deciding to try and write professionally again.  (Witch’s Boy went through 15 of them).  This was for the reworked ‘90% Proof’.  In the interests of anyone thinking of submitting their own stuff for publication, I thought I’d post it here so you can see what sort of things to avoid 🙂

Author seems to have a good grasp of the historical research needed for
this story. However, the premise to the story is not very compelling (boy
loves boy who loves another boy who loves a girl). The writing needs help.
There are lots of run-on sentences (paragraphs of them in fact). It would be
a lot of work to fix. There are lots of flowery descriptions of the ship,
the port, etc. but no character descriptions of the main characters,
although there is a delightful one of a woman one of the characters meet for
lunch.  The author also doesn't consistently refer to the characters by
their first or last names...so had an awful time figuring out who was who
throughout the entire reading." 

I actually agree with a lot of this – I’m a martyr to the run on sentence 🙂  And picking one name and consistently referring to each character using it is certainly a way to minimize confusion.  I wasn’t so sure about the ‘character descriptions’ of the main characters, as I always thought it was considered bad style to info-dump everything about a character the moment they’re introduced.  (Also I thought my description of Miss Kent was a little over the top!)  But it’s all fairly easily put right, and it’s great to have such a helpful rejection.  In fact they say I am welcome to submit it again if I rework it according to the above guidelines, which is good  🙂

I thought I was not particularly bothered, but I seem to have wasted the entire day since, eating cake and moping, not writing at all.  Clearly my methods of coping with rejection have not improved since The Witch’s Boy ten years ago.  And this was a nice one!

Never mind.  Back into the saddle tomorrow!  And at least I’ve developed a sudden fascination for Maecenas, (Octavian’s negotiator and poet/patron of the arts) that promises to lead me into some interesting research.

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21 Comments leave one →
  1. December 1, 2007 11:07 pm

    Hey, Alex, fifteen hundred rejections more and you’ll be closing in on my mark. So don’t sweat it, kid, just keep trying to improve at the craft every day and write compelling, interesting tales/prose that doesn’t put the average reader to sleep.

    The rest, I’m afraid, comes down to pure luck…

  2. December 1, 2007 11:11 pm

    Hey! Thanks Cliff! I had no idea anyone was reading this blog, so your comment not only makes me feel better because sympathy is always welcome, but it makes me feel better just because someone’s listening! I hope you don’t mind if I blogroll/friend/whatever the equivalent is over here you? I know no one and it’s a big internet!

  3. Leigh Oats permalink
    December 2, 2007 12:27 am

    Dear Alex,

    Your quote your professional (= paid) critic as saying:

    _/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/

    There are lots of run-on sentences (paragraphs of them in fact). It would be a lot of work to fix. [. . .] no character descriptions of the main characters, although there is a delightful one of a woman one of the characters meet [. . .].

    _/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/

    That professional (I’ll call the person “P”) ventures into discussion of the mechanics of language when remarking on your run-on sentences, so I feel justified in pointing out that P means the singular “meets” rather than the plural “meet”. Such errors in the mechanics of writing take a lot of work to fix, and P’s magnum or parvum opuses are probably riddled with them.

    Please maintain your gruntleship (gruntlehood?).

    Cheers,

    Leigh.

  4. Leigh Oats permalink
    December 2, 2007 2:22 am

    (Oops—here correcting the typo that’s in the first word after the “Dear Alex” of my earlier post.)

    Dear Alex,

    You quote your professional (= paid) critic as saying:

    _/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/

    There are lots of run-on sentences (paragraphs of them in fact). It would be a lot of work to fix. [. . .] no character descriptions of the main characters, although there is a delightful one of a woman one of the characters meet [. . .].

    _/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/

    That professional (I’ll call the person “P”) ventures into discussion of the mechanics of language when remarking on your run-on sentences, so I feel justified in pointing out that P means the singular “meets” rather than the plural “meet”. Such errors in the mechanics of writing take a lot of work to fix, and P’s magnum or parvum opuses are probably riddled with them.

    Please maintain your gruntleship (gruntlehood?).

    Cheers,

    Leigh.

  5. December 2, 2007 4:07 am

    The main thing is not to lose heart–hope you find a community in virtual space that will give you encouragement
    and support. Hang in there…

  6. December 2, 2007 10:54 am

    LOL! Thanks, Leigh! I missed that slip up of hers, and it does give me a laugh now you point it out 🙂 To be fair, I think she had a point. Though I expect a certain level of run-on sentences in a Regency, just to give the right feel! However, I will rework the thing a bit, and then sell it somewhere else, and when I’m rich and famous, then she’ll be sorry! 😉

    I like the word ‘gruntleship’ so much that I’m almost tempted to rename this blog ‘HMS Gruntleship’.

    Thanks so much, I feel very cheered now!

  7. December 2, 2007 10:58 am

    Thanks, Cliff! Yes, I tried giving up about 10 years ago, and all it got me was 10 years older. So from now on I’m going to take that advice and keep on trying until something happens. It won’t happen if I don’t, after all.

  8. Leigh Oats permalink
    December 2, 2007 7:43 pm

    Dear Alex,

    You say (“December 2, 2007 at 10:54 am”):

    > LOL! Thanks, Leigh! I missed that slip up of hers, and it does
    > give me a laugh now you point it out 🙂 To be fair, I think she
    > had a point.

    Of course. But that’s another story. As far as the said publisher’s hired reader is concerned I’m still trapped in “he or she who is without sin” mode.

    > Though I expect a certain level of run-on sentences in a
    > Regency, just to give the right feel!

    That depends on what you mean by run-on. In most cases the readers will assume that the author didn’t know any better (for instance when pressing a comma into service as a full stop—hint hint 🙂 ) and didn’t bother to invite a trusted person to troubleshoot the manuscript for such habits, regardless of the era in which the tale is set.

    > However, I will rework the thing a bit, and then sell it
    > somewhere else, and when I’m rich and famous, then she’ll
    > be sorry! 😉

    At is this list (verbatim, with no editing by me apart from the insertion of an asterisk for a footnote of mine) of some famous literary works that were initially rejected by publishers:

    _/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/

    a) The Time Machine (H.G. Wells)
    b) The Mysterious Affair At Styles (Agatha Christie)
    c) Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone (J.K. Rowling) *
    d) The Razor’s Edge (W. Somerset Maugham)
    e) The Good Earth (Pearl Buck)
    f) The Picture Of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde)
    g) Moby Dick (Herman Melville)
    h) The Naked And The Dead (Norman Mailer)
    i) Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen)
    j) Barchester Towers (Anthony Trollope)
    k) The Ginger Man (J.P. Donleavy)
    l) Catch – 22 (Joseph Heller)
    m) The Wind In The Willows (Kenneth Grahame)
    n) A Time To Kill (John Grisham)
    o) The Rainbow (D.H. Lawrence)
    p) The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (John Le Carre)
    q) Animal Farm (George Orwell)
    r) Tess of the D’Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy)
    s) Lord Of The Flies (William Golding)

    _/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/

    (* For any USAian reader among us who still doesn’t know, J K Rowling’s first novel, _Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone_, was given the title _Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone_ for the supposedly tricky USAian market.)

    > I like the word ‘gruntleship’ so much that I’m almost
    > tempted to rename this blog ‘HMS Gruntleship’.

    And I see that you have so renamed the blog. Well chosen, even though I say so myself. As far as I can see, you’re the first person to use the phrase “HMS Gruntleship”—at least in public. And a search of Google Web finds only one “gruntleship”-using webpage other than our present thread. A search of Google Groups brings not even one result.

    > Thanks so much, I feel very cheered now!

    Or gruntled.

    And you can afford to be cheered by the fact that the novel _Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone_ is still sprinkled with egregious errors of written language, especially in punctuation. Bloomsbury didn’t bother to mend those errors in 1997, either because it didn’t recognise them or because it knew that the main market for such books lacked the kind of critical eye needed for detecting such detail and that in any novel the _story_ and its _audiovisual potential_ were _everything_. Then, as now.

    Cheers,

    Leigh.

  9. Leigh Oats permalink
    December 2, 2007 7:58 pm

    Oh, dear. I now find that in my post of a few minutes ago the WordPress system has fishoffally deleted the URL that I wrote in my introduction to the list of famously rejected manuscripts. The webpage that I was trying to take y’all to is at morticom dot com forward-slash artsbooks dot htm.

    (I wonder whether the wizards at WordPress will see the commercial advantage of creating a _preview_ facility for us punters to use before we press the send button. But that’s another story.)

    Cheers,

    Leigh.

  10. December 3, 2007 5:29 pm

    *g* Most of my run on sentences do so because of the number of subclauses. However it is at least something I check for now. And of course different publishers have different preferences when it comes to language style. I strongly suspect there are a number of run on sentences in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, for example 🙂

    Not that I’m saying that I won’t check for them in future! I will. But sometimes sticking too closely to too many grammar rules just results in bland or jerky prose. I think it’s probably a balancing act as everything is.

    LOL! Your list of initially rejected works is very reassuring. I think Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness can be added can’t it? That’s one is one of my top books ever, not only for story but also for the style.

    I am in the UK, so Harry Potter has a Philosopher’s Stone for me. A Sorcerer’s Stone is quite a different thing and I often thought that they did the audience a disservice by separating the title from all the history and alchemy that the term ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ conjures up.

    I’m glad you don’t mind me appropriating the term ‘gruntleship’ for the blog 🙂 I might change it back to the more boring ‘Alex Beecroft’s blog’ however, now that I’ve seen that it doesn’t show up in Google searches for Alex Beecroft.

    in any novel the _story_ and its _audiovisual potential_ were _everything_.

    I couldn’t agree with you more 🙂

    I also agree about the lack of previews and editing in these comment boxes. Threading would be nice too!

    Thanks again!

  11. Leigh Oats permalink
    December 3, 2007 7:32 pm

    Dear Alex,

    You say:

    > I’m glad you don’t mind me appropriating the term
    > ‘gruntleship’ for the blog 🙂 I might change it back to the
    > more boring ‘Alex Beecroft’s blog’ however, now that I’ve
    > seen that it doesn’t show up in Google searches for Alex
    > Beecroft.

    But it _does_ (I sound like Galileo)—in both Google Web and Google Blog.

    Put this string into the search-terms window for either Google Web or Google Blog:

    .

    Or use just .

    Cheers,

    Leigh.

  12. Leigh Oats permalink
    December 3, 2007 7:39 pm

    (Uh-oh. WordPress is being cantankerous again. Second attempt:)

    Dear Alex,

    You say:

    > I’m glad you don’t mind me appropriating the term
    > ‘gruntleship’ for the blog 🙂 I might change it back to the
    > more boring ‘Alex Beecroft’s blog’ however, now that I’ve
    > seen that it doesn’t show up in Google searches for Alex
    > Beecroft.

    But it _does_ (I sound like Galileo)—in both Google Web and Google Blog.

    Put this string into the search-terms window for either Google Web or Google Blog:

    “hms gruntleship” “alex beecroft”

    Or use just

    gruntleship beecroft

    Cheers,

    Leigh.

  13. girluknow permalink
    December 4, 2007 9:24 pm

    Do you mind if I ask which publisher sent you that rejection?
    It’s one of the more helpful ones I’ve ever seen.

  14. December 4, 2007 9:57 pm

    But it _does_ (I sound like Galileo)—in both Google Web and Google Blog.

    Put this string into the search-terms window for either Google Web or Google Blog:

    “hms gruntleship” “alex beecroft”

    Or use just

    gruntleship beecroft

    Ah, but I’m thinking ‘suppose someone wants to find my blog without knowing that it’s called ‘HMS Gruntleship’ – they’re going to google for my name. So it makes sense, however boring it is, to have the blog be called by my name. It keeps everything simple, at least 🙂

  15. December 4, 2007 10:00 pm

    Do you mind if I ask which publisher sent you that rejection?
    It’s one of the more helpful ones I’ve ever seen.

    It is good, isn’t it? I almost feel fortunate to have had it 🙂 That was Dark Eden Press:
    http://www.darkedenpress.com/

  16. Leigh Oats permalink
    December 5, 2007 8:35 am

    Dear Alex,

    Girluknow’s asks you: “Do you mind if I ask which publisher sent you that rejection? It’s one of the more helpful ones I’ve ever seen.”

    And you reply: “It is good, isn’t it? I almost feel fortunate to have had it 🙂 That was Dark Eden Press [. . .].”

    Is that the outfit that criticised a manuscript of yours for having too many run-on sentences? At the top of DEP’s front page in the wilful woolly web is this grade-fivish run-on sentence:

    “Dark Eden Press takes credit cards, please select PayPal IPN when you checkout.”

    Do as we say, not as we do.

    And note DEP’s misspelling of the verb phrase “check out”.

  17. December 5, 2007 4:33 pm

    Do as we say, not as we do.

    And note DEP’s misspelling of the verb phrase “check out”.

    LOL! Oh, you do wonders for my confidence! Thank you 🙂 Also, your pointing out sentences joined together with commas is doing wonders for my editing. So thank you twice!

  18. Leigh Oats permalink
    December 5, 2007 11:04 pm

    Dear Alex,

    You say: “LOL! Oh, you do wonders for my confidence! Thank you 🙂 Also, your pointing out sentences joined together with commas is doing wonders for my editing. So thank you twice!”

    That reminds me: Three of your earlier statements—“I’m a martyr to the run on sentence”, “I strongly suspect there are a number of run on sentences in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, for example”, and “I expect a certain level of run-on sentences in a Regency, just to give the right feel!”—suggest to me that till my hint about your habit of trying to glue two sentences together by dragooning a comma into service as a full stop you didn’t know what the rest of the world (including Dark Eden Press) regards as a run-on sentence and you thought that it was simply a perfectly good sentence that contains two or more clauses. (You’ve just witnessed a perfectly good multi-clause sentence of mine—apart, perhaps, from a tug-of-war to do with my unedited verb-tenses.)

    The crime of run-on sentence is explained pretty well here:

    http://ace.acadiau.ca/english/grammar/runon.htm

    Let’s see whether WordPress’s system allows me to mention that URL. What’s the emoticon for “fingers crossed”?

  19. Leigh Oats permalink
    December 6, 2007 7:11 am

    Dear Alex,

    When I wrote . . .

    _/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/

    The crime of run-on sentence is explained pretty well here:

    http://ace.acadiau.ca/english/grammar/runon.htm

    _/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/

    . . . I hadn’t read the whole of that page. I now see that it’s good at detecting _the crime_ but bad in _the department of corrective services_. For instance it suffers from butphobia, a psychological condition that often presents itself in the same breath as howeveritis.

    Anyway, I’m sure you’ll find some better corrections if you look for “run-on sentence” in what the leader of the free world calls the innernets.

  20. Leigh Oats permalink
    December 6, 2007 7:28 am

    Another oops moment:

    I apologise to Girluknow and Alex for posting this drivel in message 16:

    _/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/

    Girluknow’s asks you: [. . .]

    _/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/

    As an editor who was making do without an editor my self-proofreading was on the nose.

  21. December 6, 2007 10:24 am

    Three of your earlier statements—”I’m a martyr to the run on sentence”, “I strongly suspect there are a number of run on sentences in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, for example”, and “I expect a certain level of run-on sentences in a Regency, just to give the right feel!”—suggest to me that till my hint about your habit of trying to glue two sentences together by dragooning a comma into service as a full stop you didn’t know what the rest of the world (including Dark Eden Press) regards as a run-on sentence and you thought that it was simply a perfectly good sentence that contains two or more clauses.

    That’s absolutely right 🙂 The thing is that, in general, my sentences do not suffer from the problem of being two sentences joined together by a comma. I’m extremely grateful to you for pointing that out because I was ignorant of it. But I don’t think that I tend to do it very much in my writing. I don’t know about you, but my style of expressing myself in comments is very different from my actual written style. Much less polished for a start!

    I have been going through the story in question recently, trying to beat it into shape in order to submit it somewhere else. Although it does contain any number of very long sentences with complicated subclauses, it doesn’t contain very many run on sentences in the ‘stuck together with a comma’ sense.

    Added to the fact that they use the comma splice themselves, this leads me to think that when they say ‘run-on sentences’ they mean long sentences with subclauses.

    However, having said that, I am absolutely delighted to have learnt this new grammar rule! Thank you ever so much 🙂 One of the perils of my progressive education is that I was taught no grammar. As a result I am sometimes so ignorant that I don’t even know that I’m ignorant.

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