Sunday, November 25, 2007

What We Talk About When We Talk About Rejection

This is not serious, as I hope you can tell from the horrible and inconsistent dialect. I also wrote it quite some time ago, and saved it to post during a slow patch. (And this certainly is a slow patch.) I should say that I don't entirely mean what I say here, but, on the other hand, "have you ever considered the fact that maybe you suck?" can sometimes be good advice to a writer.

Gather 'round, folks, gather round. Old man Hornswoggler is going to let you in on one of the deep, dark secrets of the publishing world. If you're a writer, you might not want to know this, so I'll give you the opportunity to leave. Last chance, now. All right, then, the rest of you, here it is:

Editors lie.

Now, you might say that's no secret. I know they lie. They tell me that they're going to read my story over the weekend, and I can hear the lie. They tell me that no one ever steals ideas, but the best friend of the cousin of that woman Jane who used to be in my old writing group had her "The Last Supper Code" just stolen by that Dan Brown creep. Editors are always lying, to keep we poor put-upon writers down.

But that's not what I mean, I say as you start murmuring louder, talking about cover approval promises and ad budget expectations -- that's not what I mean!

Sorry, didn't mean to yell, there. Just settle down, folks. (A pack of writers are as ornery as a long-tailed cat in a rocking chair warehouse.)

No, the kind of lies I wanted to tell you about are the ones you don't expect. The lies editors tell when they pass on a project, when they reject a story, when they say no.

When an editor says "It's not right for me," he's means it sucks.

When an editor says "I couldn't get it past the pub board," she means that she's been reading selected sentences out in a silly voice to the assembled office and collapsing in a fit of laughter.

When an editor says "It's just too far out there for us," she means that it doesn't actually make logical, grammatical or any other kind of sense, but she thinks you were trying to be transgressive.

When an editor says "I loved it, but...", he hated it.

When an editor says "We all loved it, but...", not even she read it.

When an editor says "My assistant insisted I read it," that's because the assistant was snorting milk out of her nose at high velocity during a slush-reading session.

When...well, let me make this simple. You know how people say "it's not you"? Maybe, just maybe, this time it is you.


Anonymous said...

So, given what you've seen of publishing, how far out of your way would you go to discourage the Things from becoming writers? (Or other types of artists for that matter?)

Andrew Wheeler said...

Johan: Well, Thing 1 currently wants to be a game designer, which will probably be as over-competitive and under-paid as fiction writing by the time he grows up.

I hope they get careers they like and that get them out of my house at the appropriate age, mostly -- so I'll be pushing them to get something that pays regularly and has benefits. (Which the creative life generally doesn't.)

On the other hand, plenty of writers make solid careers out of it -- they're the ones who write non-fiction. If you can do books/articles that people really want or need, you'll have a good living. If you want to tell made-up stories, it's much tougher.

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