Thursday, November 19, 2015

On feedback

One piece of advice for aspiring writers which I have repeated in the past is that if a slush pile reader, or editor, gives you ANY feedback in a rejection, it's worthwhile. They will not take time to comment unless the story "grabbed" them to some degree.

Another point is that, if you are a good writer and have some small degree of objectivity, you will recognize when the comment is valid. Over the years there have been many times when a story comes back to me with a comment that strikes a chord.

If something bothers you or makes you uncertain in a story, and the rejection mentions the same point or problem, it's a confirmation.

Of course, some people run their stories through critique groups and have these glitches highlighted BEFORE their stories are submitted. I've lived in small rural towns all the time I've written fiction, so that option isn't available to me.

Today I got a rejection from a pro publication which illustrates my point. It said, in part:

"Your characters and the premise... are strong. However, the tale could be made more urgent if it were lived/shown for the reader a bit more, rather than relayed through dialogue."

Ah-hah! This is great feedback. You see, I write dialogue well, and now I realize that in playing to my strength as a writer I stinted my reader as a storyteller. With this insight, I can go back to the story and do a little rewriting and probably make it a lot better.

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"It’s possible that you haven’t run into the stories of Lou Antonelli. Since 2003, he’s been publishing delightful short tales of alternate history all over the nooks and crannies of the SF world. Thanks to Fantastic Books, we now have 28 of these little gems in one place. "Many of Antonelli’s stories have an unexpected twist ending. And many of them are what he calls “secret history” stories, which aren’t exactly alternate history—they’re set in our familiar history, but there’s always some element that contemporary observers missed. " -

- Don Sakers, The Reference Library, Analog July-Aug. 2014

A better path develops for a distraught man in “Double Exposure” by Lou Antonelli (debut 6/11 and reviewed by Frank D). Jake is about to end it all. He has been trying to keep his high maintenance wife happy for decades and has needed to embezzle to satisfy her spending habits. Now, on the verge of indictment and abandoned by his spouse, he buys a gun. Before he pulls the trigger, he spies a Kodak one-day photo hut. Curious, he pulls up to the window. They are holding pictures of him and his last girlfriend from 30 years before. The package is a lot thicker than it should be. Double Exposure” is listed as an Alternative History story but I would classify it as a Magical Realism tale. It is set as a second chance tale, a look into a life that should have been. The author is inspired by his memories of the old photo huts (I remember them) and of their disappearance. A cool idea (photos of another life), one that I could imagine would make for a great anthology.

- Frank Dutkiewicz, Diabolical Plots

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- James Hanzelka, Diabolical Plots

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