"I'm just going to write because I can't help it."- Charlotte Brontë

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Talking About Fight Club

What I call rah-rah rejections (in the nicest and most appreciative way), Elizabeth Bear calls rave rejections, and she has posted some advice here on how to move from these almost-there stories onto the next stage in one's writing career.

She evocatively equates apprentice writers with garage-band guitarists that all sound alike or like rip-offs of more experienced musicians - anyone who has ever been "lucky" enough to live next door to a budding rock star and his/her hard practicing pals immediately knows what she means -  and she counsels writing, writing, writing and then some more writing, as well as working on each story's voice and narrative. Solid stuff.

For me, the greatest pleasure, in a deliciously naughty he-he-he way, came from reading a line that a lowly scribe such as myself cannot risk writing without it sounding like sour grapes or an unprofessional tantrum, but which an established writer with major credentials can blithely put out there:

(Plenty of salable stories aren't actually really good--but without the push of an established name, a new writer's will probably have to be. Sorry about that, in the immortal words of Rowlf the Dog.)
We all know this to be true. We all know that when starting out as a newbie in most spheres of life, you have to be just that little bit better than the old guard to break through the established hierarchy, or to jump up and down energetically in often undignified ways whilst bragging about your amazingness to be noticed, or to have the support of someone powerful to move up the ladder. Then you have to back up that lucky break with hard work and talent, of course (unless those network connections are really powerful), and keep that hard work coming and that talent sharp lest the next newbie to come alone bumps you from your spot.

It would be unrealistic to maintain that the Writing World exists within a hermetically sealed dome populated by unprejudiced and unfailingly fair-minded folk who remain unswayed by friendships, sticking with what and who they already know and feel comfortable with, personal tastes and sales figures, but we mostly don't like to admit it. We want to think the Writing World functions as a meritocracy of the purest sort, but I doubt any human organisation can attain that level of idealism or professionalism. People are people. As soon as you have more than one person in a room, politics of some sort always comes into play. And some play the game better than others. That's just life. Every day, in both the Real World and the Writing World, we suck it up, and we deal with this often frustrating truth as graciously as possible. Those who can't handle it risk becoming bitter and twisted souls.

Anyway, what I take from this post, apart from a good giggle, is not a swollen sense of injustice, but the lesson that we low-level writers just have to be like the characters that Elizabeth exhorts us to write about - the ones who love something, who hold fast to a dream, and who fight for what they care about no matter how hopeless the odds seem.

And yes, I just received one of those rave rejections. The pro sale that might have been and almost was now won't be.

I've already sent that story somewhere else.

Fight on.


Steve Cameron said...

Fight on, indeed.

Gitte Christensen said...

Jab, jab, mighty upper cut...