Friday, January 19, 2007
  literary taste and the subjectivity of the publishing world
A story I had on submission was recently rejected and returned along with some comments. Three out of four readers really liked it. Two thought it was great, the third thought it was very good but some of the dialogue could be less modern sounding (it's set in modern times, but the characters are vampires who are several hundred years old and so have a bit of an archaic feel to their pov; thus their use of language is a debatable point -- would their word choice remain archaic, or would they unconciously modify it to fit in; if their pov still carries a bit of the mideval, mightn't their language, not so much as to draw attention to themselves, but just hints of it... certainly an issue worth revisiting and perhaps tweaking some word choice a bit.)

The fourth, however, panned the story, saying there was too much irrelevant detail.

I guess between the third's concerns over dialogue and the fourth's panning, it was a no-go, but it certainly gives a writer pause. Clearly many times you don't have four reviewers giving you their opinions, rather you have one editor. If that one is the one out of four that thinks you've got too much detail, you're sunk. If he/she happens to be one of the the other three, you've either got a sale or a request for a rewrite. Either way, it's clear that personal preference plays a huge role in the publishing game.

I personally like a lot of detail. I like lush writing that lets me not only see the setting, but smell, hear it, feel it. One of the reasons I usually don't read many short stories is I don't get enough sensory detail, nor enough complexity to the character development and the plotline. The short stories I write tend to have more complicated plots, more complex characters, and more sensory detail than many I've read. As a result, they tend to run on the long side as I hate to compromise on those details that to me bring a story alive.

Obviously, that's not everyone's cup of tea, although the comments would suggest that more people like that style of writing than the writing manuals imply. I guess, as a writer, you just have to decide do I care? Do I want to write for that market that wants lush prose, or should I work on trimming? Common advice is to trim away anything that doesn't move the plot forward. To me, that leaves an awful lot of stories very bare. Of course, you don't want to squash the plot either, but there does need to be some balance.

I guess, with three out of four liking the story, I feel satisfied that I've achieved a decent balance in this story, and will try to sell it elsewhere after revisiting the dialogue rather than trying to make major cuts.

Recently in a writer's group I'm on, someone asked about whether we ever felt we'd written the perfect story. This story may not be perfect, but I like it the way it is. I like being a lush writer. I don't want to be a terse one. I guess that is what is meant by being true to your craft. Editor concerns are important, but at some level, you have to write the way you like to write.
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Progressive Muslim, feminist, mom, writer, mystic, lover of the universe and Doug Schmidt, cellist, theologian and imam.

What I'm reading now

Cane River
An interesting exploration of the gradual whiting of a family through slavery to modern days.

To see an archive of all the books I've read (well the ones I've read and review since I started the blog) with comments, please click here

Causes Worth Supporting

This is just a short list -- a few of my favorites.

English Language Islamic Fiction. We need more of it. Lots more.
Pay a Teacher's Salary in Afghanistan. The Hunger site actually has a lot of worthwhile programs. You can find them all here .
Muslims for Progressive Values. My organization. We can always use donations, of time or money!
Human Rights Campaign for the glbt community
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
The ACLU I'm a card carrying member. Hope you'll become one too. The organization that has done the most, as far as I can tell, to pull the countries progressive side together.
Network of Spiritual Progressives. Working to reclaim religion and morality for the religious left.

Blogs Worth Reading

Wanda Campbell also known as Nochipa A very gifted poet and a gentle, compassionate soul. Nochipa and I are on the same page on sooooo many things
Writeous Sister Aminah Hernandez, she's got some excellent latino pieces and always has good writing info on her blog.
Sister Scorpion aka Leila Montour - Leila is a fount of energy, quirky humor, and bad attitude. She's also a talented poet.
Muhajabah Very interesting commentary here. I don't always agree with her, but her pieces are always thought-provoking.
Georgie Dowdell Georgie is a great writer and a good friend.
Louise Marley Another great writer. I think Louise is one of the best sf writers exploring faith themes.
Ink in My Coffee Devon Ellington (who has numerous aliases) who is also the editor of Circadian Poems. A truly inspiring woman with a seemingly endless supply of energy.
Ethnically Incorrect With a name like that, isn't a given I'm going to enjoy this writer?
Freedom from the Mundane Colin Galbraith, another excellent writer, from Scotland.
The Scruffy Dog Review This is a new e-zine with an ecclectic mix of fiction, poetry, and non-fic, some really enjoyable pieces here.
Ramblings of a Suburban Soccer Mom Lara, another gentle soul, very thoughtful.
Circadian Poems A journal of poetry, new stuff up all the time.
Ye Olde Inkwell Michelle writes romance and is one of my writing buddies.
Muhammad Michael Knight The original punk Muslim writer. Like him or love him, Mike is always coming up with the unexpected.

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