Yet here I am, looking at my notes from that talk in Boston alongside a couple of my own short stories. But then, we should cringe a little at our earlier work. This is one thing I tell my students, anyway. Thinking of writing in terms of pleasure has given me an opportunity to better and more accurately describe what I find good about stories.
E Men or your own long forgotten Lite-Brite. Most editors can see, in those moments, what the writer saw and understand why that writer submitted the story in the first place. In attempting to write a list of pitfalls, then, I found myself mostly wondering about the common ideas, plot elements, stylistic moves, or character traits that detracted from my ability to find the work pleasurable in spite of the good and interesting turns that a particular story took.
Most of us have long Submittable cues, stories of near-misses, and the occasional story of success. This is not so uncommon. Among writer friends, many have hard drives filled with drafts and partial drafts, rejected stories, novels that never gelled, books that never sold. Did it get a personal rejection or a form rejection?
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Was there a particular editor who replied? It was another year and a half before it was published. He put it out in his journal that October. One advantage a writer who works as an editor has is that rejections tend to smart a little less because we know that the ratio of rejections to acceptances is daunting.
For the most part, my work in publishing has taught me that you have to move past rejection quickly. To put the story away? To quit? To be paralyzed by rejection slips? To be so wounded by rejection that you apply to law school I shudder at the thought? Which brings me back to that conference room in Boston.
They have day jobs. They write at night and on the weekends.
Consider the Source: Elements of Point of View and Narrative Device
Some are in book clubs. Some are much further away from writing circles. The list of pitfalls I ended up writing is intended to benefit those writers who are already in writerly circles those enrolled in MFA programs, or who have gotten fellowships or attended residencies, etc.
What I ended up writing had a lot to do with the alphabet and with dinosaurs. Here are those thoughts, more or less as I delivered them in Boston. Incidentally, Alien Warrior was so awful that I feel compelled to quote the Rotten Tomatoes synopsis of the film here:.
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A space alien martial arts master visits a tough inner city neighborhood and helps the good people there find hope and better lives while simultaneously ridding the streets of all bad influences in this low-budget outing. Also released as King of the Streets on VHS, whose cover leaves out any mention of the sci-fi elements as well as audaciously stating that it stars Larry Fishburne which it does not. If, at least in my mind, Alien Warrior represents the nadir of eighties movie awfulness, then The Land Before Time represents the zenith of eighties movie excellence.
The year it came out was also the year that my parents had taken my brothers and me to the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles where I had seen dinosaur fossils that, as those R-rated films had done, delighted and frightened me. The prospect of seeing these long-dead beasts draped in animated flesh and enlivened with voice was irresistible to my seven-year-old, Hammer-pants-wearing, bowl-cut-sporting, friendship-bracelet-donning self. But not even the scariest moments of Unsolved Mysteries —when Robert Stack would step out of the low, violet fog in his long Macintosh coat and describe horrendous home invasions and whole-family massacres—could match the upset I felt during The Land Before Time.
In protecting her offspring, she is mortally wounded and, following her death, Littlefoot collapses and weeps in the swimming pool-sized footprint she leaves behind.
I know that my understanding of mortality occurred earlier than the winter of In breaking the egg, I killed the under-developed chick inside, and I cried at the sight of its tiny, wet body. My mother and father had consoled me at the death of the chick, but even at seven, I had too much pride to ask for comfort following the on-screen death of an animated dinosaur. I thought to myself. Also, the death of the chick was in my hands. I could take responsibility for it. I could feel guilt, which was evidence of my own relative agency.
Not a thing. This is, of course, a relatively straightforward description of how pathos operates. But how do we, as writers, manage to make readers feel rather than to merely imagine? How do we communicate authentic sentiment in a way that provokes a reader into feeling without leaving that reader feeling entirely manipulated?
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The answer, I think, lies in the language we use, which brings me to a quick note about the alphabet:. Humans are far from unique in our ability to communicate through sound. Even the dinosaurs likely had complicated vocalizations similar to those of modern birds, which sing to attract mates and to sound alarm. Howler monkeys, too, may hoot to warn of an approaching jaguar, just as the jaguar hisses to ward intruders away from its turf.
These lexigram keyboards, used by primate researchers and their great ape subjects, are nuanced and beautiful. This vocabulary test , produced in association with the University of Wellington, is telling and entertaining, if also a little deflating, at least for me. This may be a second arena in which the professional editor has a bit of an advantage over other writers. Because we see so much work in draft form, we also tend to develop a barometer for where things are going and where, frankly, writers make the same assumptions and missteps. A grid of lexigrams.
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Yerkish sure is pretty. It was clear then that the writer was only writing to affirm her racism, or perhaps even to be praised for it. It was, hands down, the worst experience of my life as an editor.
I walked away, leaving her sitting there with her pages, which offended her. She complained to other writers at the conference about me. Genre dependent: Crime and Romance are traditionally written in third person, most YA tends to be in first person. Second person is used in more experimental writing. She tries to calm down, but the panic overwhelms her.
She runs her hands over the smooth surface above her face. She can feel the end above her head and the sides and she can just reach the bottom.
Collection of Stories - Escaping Life on the Streets
She has found the edges with her finger and tries to pry the pieces apart. She bangs against it, again and again. She blinks as dust falls in to her eyes. She tries to yell for help, but her voice cracks. So dry. How did she end up here? She wills herself to think. Where was she?
The supermarket. She was at the supermarket. She was buying groceries. There was a guy. You try to calm down, but the panic overwhelms you. You run your hands over the smooth surface above your face. You feel the end above your head and the sides and you can just reach the bottom.
You find the edges with your finger and try to pry the pieces apart. You bang against it, again and again. You blink as dust falls in your eyes. You try to yell for help, but your voice cracks. How did you end up here? You will yourself to think. Matthew Taylor Follow. The Writing Cooperative A writing community and publication focused on helping each other write better. Writing Journalism Ethics Writing Tips. Aspiring freelance writer. Favourite topics: writing, education, politics, and engineering. The Writing Cooperative Follow.