more negative attention

I received another rejection this week (so far). It was for my short story “Travel Light,” which is/was chapter two of my languishing novel project Larger than Life. It wasn’t a detailed rejection letter, but it was personalized, and when I wrote a quick email back thanking them for the consideration and feedback, they wrote back in turn thanking me for submitting. I appreciate that kind of respect and courtesy.

The story takes place during an office float trip, and I wrote about it in a bit more detail way back here. I suspect now that this stand-alone chapter may be as far as that novel ever really gets. Sure, I’d written perhaps 40,000 words for other chapters, but the effort stalled, and I’m losing touch with the protagonist and his motivations. I don’t see myself getting back to that place, and I’m honestly not too broken up about that. There is another character in that universe that I’d like to write a piece about. Oddly, he was a minor character who is more referenced than seen in that tale. But that may be all the farther I venture into that universe. Fathers and Sons has since taken over my creative life, and for now, that’s been a satisfying place to be.

The rejection email for “Travel Light” said that the editors really liked the characterization but they felt that the piece wasn’t structurally where it needed to be yet. (One other rejection had also mentioned the good characterization of the story.) I’m not sure what to make of the structure comment though. I’m not disagreeing with it; I just don’t know how I can use it to improve the story. While I do a little bit of flashback, it is mostly a straightforward account of a day on the water in a canoe. The whole trip is a metaphor for the character’s current state in life. Slow. Hung up on hidden sandbars. Every inch forward a struggle. That kind of thing. I can’t see my way around that part of the structure; it seems so apt for what I want to show. Well, I suppose the editors meant something else with their structural comment.

I wish I had other news to share with you, gentle reader. As I mentioned in a recent post, several submission deadlines have passed for various magazines, and I’m biting my nails in anticipation of responses for the pieces I’d sent in. (Also, how/why is it that people chew their fingernails when they’re nervous? Is that a learned behavior? Is it culturally specific? And why that?) I was hoping I could share with you the wonderful news of one of my Fathers and Sons stories being accepted, but that hasn’t happened yet.

I can share this with you, however. I get on an airplane later today and go to this place called New York. (It really exists; I’ve verified it personally.) I’m going to do a little bit of sight seeing, and then I’m running in a 10K with my daughter on Sunday. She runs marathons several times a year; I’m not sure how she’ll cope with my plodding pace. I’ll tell her to run on ahead without me, but she’ll be polite and stay with me. It seems exact in retrospect, but I never would have guessed how similar long-distance running is to writing. I’ve seen this very point come up in several other writing blogs I visit. Finding such dovetails in life and work is much like getting a respectful rejection letter. I feel good even though it hurts a bit.

Explore posts in the same categories: Humble efforts, Larger than Life, short stories

3 Comments on “more negative attention”

  1. I miss those float trips in the Ozarks. For us, it was always the White River. This, obviously, has little to do with your post šŸ™‚

    I admire your tenacity. I really don’t submit, much, anymore…at least short stories. It would not hurt, I’m sure, but it’s been years since I’ve submitted a short story anywhere. Hopefully, some of the Fathers and Sons stories will get accepted and they’ll all end up collected in something hovering between a collection and a novel.

    As far as the similarities between distance running and writing–I’m tellin’ ya: Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a good read on that subject. It sometime leans more toward running, but large chunks are about running and writing and the similarities, and those parts are wonderful! Have fun with Sunday’s run!

  2. Pete Says:

    I like your idea of developing a minor character from that story into a whole new story – go with it. One of my earliest stories was rejected about ten times before I quit bothering to send it out. But I redeemed that by writing a new story a couple of years ago around a secondary character from the first story. And I’m quite happy with that new story. Of course, it’s also part of the collection that I’ve been neglecting for the past six months, so that new story might not ever be published either.

  3. Paul Lamb Says:

    Christopher – I’ve read the Murakami book — at your suggestion. He does, indeed, point out the many parallels.
    Pete – It’s funny how such solid characters and stories have snuck up on me. The whole Fathers and Sons universe pretty much came out of nowhere. Same with that story idea for the minor character from Larger than Life.

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