One of my stories got accepted!

It’s the first one since I started doing the 100 Rejection Challenge (current stats: 22 subs/queries, 12 rejections, 1 acceptance), and after all the weeks of doom and gloom it was a very welcome change!

A story that I wrote while deep in depression in 2011, I’ve struggled to find a home for it. Called Music of the Spheres, it’s about euthanasia and how a person can struggle with a decision even after their mind is made up. Most rejections were form ones, so I don’t know why it didn’t fit, but a few were personalized. One said: “A lovely premise with strong internal story elements. The prose is beautiful…. This piece really captures a moment and an experience. But in the end we’re following someone who has already made their mind up and follows through with their decision which isn’t quite enough- there’s no change here” which is both lovely and a bit puzzling, since I felt like it missed the point of the story (the protagonist is revisiting her regrets, even as she knows she won’t change her mind).

The feedback was a bit depressing, as all rejections can be, but I decided to take away two lessons from it: 1) perhaps stories structured around an explicit change might sell better–something to keep in mind for future shorts and 2) how much do I want to tell the stories the way I want to tell them vs how much do I want to be sellable?

It’s a question very much on my mind as I query Creampuffs and Ashes. Both are novels that I wrote because I couldn’t find the niche I wanted to read; both are non-traditional formats (aka they don’t conform to the 3 act structure or anything remotely like that). A LOT of advice out there is about writing something that will SELL SELL SELL but most seem to want your book to follow a set of guidelines ripped out of screenwriting classes. I’m not interested in writing a gripping thriller with “constant rising action” (excuse me?). I don’t want to read about people “grappling with issues” all the time. I like reading stuff that feels like a sideways history: maybe it happened, maybe it could happen, but it’s messy and sometimes it’s just people running to keep up. Like life feels, but to someone who isn’t me.

Is this just my taste? According to the advice columns I read: yes. I am the outlier.

So my choice is rip out the seams of my stories and resew them to make them SELL or… to keep on swimming and hope someone eventually loves them as much as I do.

Music of the Spheres took 6 and a half years to find a home. Would it have sold sooner or for more if I changed its point? Maybe? Maybe not. But it’ll be out there as it is (pending minor revisions) and as I intended it to be. That feels pretty good, especially after so much crud this winter.

Just gotta keep swimming and learn to accept that if I want to tell the stories my own way, it might take a while….

Check back in tomorrow for Clarissa¬†Goenawan’s guest post on Things I Wish People Would Ask Me At Parties promoting her debut novel!

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