Sunday, March 18, 2007

Rejection and Feedback

“Negative feedback is better that none. I would rather have a man hate me than overlook me. As long as he hates me I make a difference.” - Sparky Hugh Prathe

A member of my writing group received a note back on a submission recently. IMHO, the short romance she submitted was one of the strongest she'd written but it was rejected... and quickly, too. But she wasn't just sent a form letter, she had one line of feedback regarding whether a couple would share one dinner between them. What?

Some time ago, I submitted to the same place. When I got my rejection, there was feedback saying that waiters don't wear hats at restaurants. And another, from the same place simply said that "something" was wrong with the story.


Seriously, folks, the first two comments are regarding things easily fixed, and the last might as well not have been included at all. It's nice to know that there is actually a real live person reading your stuff, but clearly the dinner and the hat were not the reasons these stories were rejected, since removing or fixing those problems is quite simple and wouldn't change the story in any integral way.

But it got me to thinking: Do I do that?

When I'm reading for feedback, do I get hung up on something silly that I just can't get past? Something that would be easily changed or that someone else wouldn't find odd? My entire group read through my friend's story, and none of us had an issue with the dinner.

I plan on paying closer attention to what little things I like or don't like when I read. I want to know if something small like that can put me completely off of a story... I'm curious if my reaction is strong.

I had my (now ex) brother-in-law, who is a screenwriter in LA, call me regarding a script he was in the middle of and ask me something I actually knew a lot about and he didn't. He said, can this thing happen? I said, nope... they wouldn't do that. He said, I can't write the story unless they do. I told him he'd have to do what he needed to do, and that most people wouldn't know the difference. So he did, and did it wrong, and the movie was a huge hit, so apparently no one cared.

So... for you: do the little things matter to the point that a story can be off-putting? Do you get hung up on the details? Or do you just shrug and keep on moving forward?


Tori Lennox said...

Sometimes it takes me a long time to see problems in my own work. Much easier to spot in others'. Not sure what that says about me, though. :)

anno said...

Mostly I'm pretty willing to accept whatever happens in a story; in the name of entertainment, I'm fairly gullible, I guess.

Terry said...

I'm overly anal about accuracy. I hate it when a writer doesn't do his/her homework. But I'm willing to give a lot of "that MIGHT happen" leeway. It's when they're totally wrong and a simple piece of research could have solved the problem that I begin to distrust the rest of the stuff in the book.

But--that's just me. Others have said the same things don't bother them. Meanwhile, I'm grateful to crit partners who know that a Highlander SUV doesn't come with a stick shift, so I don't look stupid and have my heroine find a clutch. Would everyone know? Probably not. But those who shopped for Highlanders might, and it would bother me.

I'm already concerned about how far I've pushed the envelope with my August Cerridwen Press release, which is set in a real town with a real law enforcement agency.

Allie Boniface said...

Actually, I agree with Terry about the accuracy thing. Sometimes it does bother me when an author tries to get away with a plot point or a detail that could/would not really be possible. And unfortunately, I know a lot of agents/editors are that way too. A detail that "doesn't belong" pulls a reader out of the story just long enough.

MaryF said...

Once I put a book down because the author spelled The Beatles wrong. I mean, really.

Okay, and the hero never used contractions because he was a second language learner, but I work with a lot of second language learners and they use contractions.