Feb. 27th, 2018
The story for the third week had to do with strangers dealing with each other. And it was another one of those that made me scratch my head, especially the part about not wanting to read anything icky since it was a parent-child editorial team. No definition of “icky” was provided.
In retrospect I realize that my fear of putting in any details about sexual attraction actually kept me from adequately fleshing out the emotional aspect, which was something they did want. But, apparently, I can’t write anything that doesn’t tend towards having a romantic aspect of some kind—yes, it’s a personal flaw and probably not one I will fix since I like my romantic tensions too much.
This story started with an image of a blonde woman in a white suit and pumps, holding a pearl white briefcase, getting ready to go through a stargate.
I had no idea she was going to end up in Hell, no idea I was going to use a character I’d used in another (unpublished) story, no idea it was going to be about what it ended up being about, no idea that I was going to play off the Persephone/Hades myth. I had no idea I was going to bring in the concepts of war being hell, of military traditions, or a statement on totalitarianism.
If you’re not familiar with Abigor, the Duke of Hades, I suggest you google it. I loved the idea of the Devil having his own Secretary of War and that Abigor was always portrayed as a handsome knight. And I just couldn’t pass up the idea of a demon being a handsome knight and having a former angel fall for him. Yes, it should’ve of been more of a romance. Hindsight, thou art 20/20, you useless little …
The story ended up as former angel meets demon (because they would be strange to each other).
Summary: Eir, a Verity (a human lie detector who used to be an angel) ends up in Hell, when Abigor, the Duke of Hades, snatches her from a time stream. After confirming the truth of his vision about a threat to all of Creation and the battle plan needed to win, she partakes of the food at his table so that she can return to Hell and join him in the vanguard.
- Editor 1: Not his kind of story
- Editor 2: Beautiful writing ; not interested in a hell story.
- Editor 3: Really enjoyed it; enjoyed concepts; loved Missing Man table; ending wasn’t emotionally connected; enjoyed the writing; maybe pile.
- Editor 4: Liked it; she was such an interesting character; needed more of a reaction more to the Devil and to Hell; she’s not traumatized enough; maybe pile.
- Buying editor 1: By middle the feeling was on theme; interactions between angel and demon are kind of core of everything that’s going on; loved ideas and politics within hell; loved commentary on totalitarian fascism but ending wasn’t deeply connected; didn’t understand why did she ended up with him; didn’t get the relationship; reluctant no.
- Buying editor 2: Reactions to hell should be more intense; present problem at the front; interesting, but not enough.
The word limit was 6000 and I actually came in at 4700 but mostly because I ran out of time. I think if I would have had more time, I would have pushed past the word limit. A truly excellent story over 10,000 words was bought for this 6000-word limit anthology.
The take-away for me here was that I need to tell more (cringe) or I need to add more word count with showing and just look at word limits as suggestions or perhaps pirate code. I also need to write the story as it wants to be written rather than approach it with constraints. It might’ve gotten rejected for being too icky, or it might not. Now I will never know, but I think that if I’d told my critical voice to shut up, I would have made the characters more emotionally engaging. I could’ve always gone back and cut any ickiness (which I later realized meant explicit sex) and just kept the emotional aspects.
Again, without going into specifics since I’m not at liberty to discuss who said what about whose work, the following things were said about different stories, as well as for the same story:
- I expected one kind of story but your story went in the wrong direction. No buy.
- I knew how it was going to end. No buy.
- I like how you twisted the end and surprised me. No buy.
- I loved this story and you kept me reading until the end, but sorry, no buy.
- I hated everything about this character. I wanted to strangle him. Buy.
- There’s a lot of manuscript level problems, but it’s a buy with a rewrite.
- Your story has several issues, but if you’d be willing to make some changes, I might be interested. But I might not, since the changes I’m asking for may make the story a different story that wouldn’t fit.
Some of the “no buys” came down to “no matter my personal opinion” there are other considerations such as I already have too many stories of this kind and can’t fit yours in. Or the story is too unique and doesn’t fit with the others. There were also other minutiae that are impossible to know ahead of time, all coming down to editorial taste. For example, “I don’t read stories set in hell.” Now that’s a tidbit that would be impossible to know unless you knew the editor or heard them speak on a panel.
I know that it’s going to surprise many of you to hear that editors are human. Yes, they are. They have preferences. They have biases. “Not my thing” and “not for me” were often heard. As was, “I kept reading because it was a [insert author’s name] story.”
Veterans of this workshop obviously had an advantage. They knew the preferences of editors with whom they’d worked with before and could write for them better than someone new. I’m not complaining, I’m just stating a fact, acknowledging reality. If you think about it, it’s just the way things work, everywhere, with everyone.
So, not only is taste a key factor, so are relationships. If you became a writer so you wouldn’t have to network, you’re in for a surprise. Let’s take the editors out of this entirely and think of this from the perspective of a reader. A reader who liked your previous work, whose trust you’ve gained, will give you more leeway with your next work than a reader who has never read you. If they liked your last book and you insert something they might not love in your new one, they’re more likely to set aside those things they don’t like and/or to trust you to deliver in the end.