So the tub is stopped up again and I can't take a shower, and I have to be at work in 12 hours. That's the fun thing about my job; no days off for holidays. I just work the days I'm scheduled to work and if I want time off, I have to take a vacation day for it. The good thing about my job is .... well, I'll have to get back to you on that one.
At any rate, here we are for another week of fun. As a side note, a few people have been emailing me asking for advice on where to go to get good critique. Alas, good critique is about as rare as diamonds, and about as precious. So if any of you out there want to make a few friends for life, sign up for the RPGFFML (link in sidebar) and start doing some critique for people, or just offer to preread for people who say that they need it. A second opinion at the "edit" stage of ficwriting is usually something that most authors -- at least, the authors that I've found who are serious about their craft -- will gladly sell their firstborn children to acquire.
A brief digression while I wish the GIA luck in getting their files recovered quickly and back online. Given the current state of the "digital economy", it's not a surprise that you guys are having server problems; good luck getting that resolved as soon as possible.
And another side note: there are a number of updates that need to be done to the archives, that people have emailed me about over the past two weeks. As I need to sleep soon so that I can be at work tonight, I'll get it done next week, and I do apologize.
All of that having been said, let's move on to the Notes from Fanfic Land, which are a little long this week. I've been wanting to get this off my chest for a while, and I apologize in advance for the length of it.
Notes From Fanfic Land
Another issue that's been brought up in email lately is that of handling rejection gracefully. We here in RPGamer fanfic land will reject fics for one of several reasons. Sometimes the basic core premise of the story is something that we've seen hundreds of times already -- FF7 comes to mind, where so many of the stories we receive are a retelling of a story that's already in our archives, with little to set them apart from the rest in terms of originality. Sometimes the story suffers from far too many flaws with spelling and grammar. Sometimes the characters in the story are reacting in such a way that makes them completely unrecognizable as the characters from the game the author is using for source material. Sometimes there really isn't a story there -- just a number of sentences strung together, with no beginning, no middle, and no end. And sometimes the story itself is, simply, something that doesn't appeal to our tastes as readers.
There are five of us who read and make decisions on fics for a reason, and that reason is to get the widest possible set of opinions on a single story. We all read every story that comes through that mailbox, with the understanding that sometimes external life pressures prevents an editorial assistant from making decisions on a story for a while. We try to be selective with what we accept -- we are not a service like fanfiction.net, where every story that is submitted is automatically made available to the public. We choose what suits us, and what we think that our readers will enjoy.
That being said, there are times when we feel it is necessary to decline a story that has been submitted to us, for a number of reasons -- not only the reasons that are given above. When that happens, we send an email to the author of the story, letting them know. A depressing number of times, we receive back an angry email protesting that "all of my friends liked it", or "I worked hard on this story", or my particular favorite, "you obviously didn't read it or you would have accepted it".
Look, I'm an author too. I know the feeling; I know what it's like to cut a metaphorical vein and bleed those words out onto paper, or onto a computer screen. I know what it's like to take that story, bundle it up, and ship it off to someone, in essence saying "Please read my story and tell me that it's worthwhile."
I know what it's like to receive back that email or that letter saying those horrible words: your story does not meet our current needs. I could probably wallpaper my bedroom with rejection slips I've gotten from various and sundry publications. I understand the impulse to turn around and protest the decision, and probably would have done so myself if email had been available -- the beauty of the digital age is that communication is so much easier.
Writers collect rejections; there are very few people who are writing now who turned out perfect prose the moment they first picked up their pen. And rejection doesn't necessarily mean that your story isn't good, or isn't valid, or isn't worthwhile. There's a reason that we don't tell people "your story is no good", because every story has some redeeming quality to it, even if it's only the fact that it's something produced by a human being, from that human being's dreams and thoughts and personality. We tell people your story does not meet our current needs. It's not an attack on a person; it's not an attack on the story. It is a simple statement of fact: the story we have received does not fit into our purpose for being here.
RPGamer's fanfic department -- at least under my aegis; who knows what my eventual successor's opinion on things will be down the line -- is not an archive; my goal, and that of my editorial assistants, is to make available a collection of what we consider to be the best fanfiction out there. It's a somewhat arbitrary distinction, I know, and that's why we will frequently accept stories that we do not personally like (for any one of a number of reasons), but that we can look at and say objectively, "This is written well". We strive for at least a "semi-professional" level of quality, no matter how many times someone might say to me "It's just fanfic, don't take it too seriously." As a writer, I take my craft seriously, whether it be fan fiction or original work. As an editor, I look for other people who have that same attitude. There are a number of authors I can think of who have sent us a number of stories, one after the other -- after their first five stories were rejected, they went out and wrote more, and kept improving, and their work is now in our archives.
So if you receive an email from me stating that we don't think your story meets our current needs, please don't take it personally, and particularly don't email us to complain that we don't know what we're doing. Ask yourself instead, "What can I do to make this story better?" -- or even, "What can I do in the future to improve my talent as a writer?" There are a number of wonderful resources on writing that can be found on the Internet. Take yourself seriously as a writer and as an artist, work hard to be the best writer that you can be -- and I look forward to the day when I can send you that email that starts with "We have read your work, and would like the chance to feature it in a future update..."
Writing Tip of the Week
No specific tip this week; instead, I present to you a link to Why Did My Story Get Rejected? from the sadly now-defunct Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine. It's a good look into the mind of an editor, and the reasons given at the bottom can shed some light into what an editor is looking for -- myself and my associates included.
Alanna "I'm not a bitch, I just play one on the Internet" @rpgamer.com
17 in Accept
3 in the Inbox
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