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What Failure Looks Like.

October 24, 2011

Ok, to be fair this isn’t going to be about some Epic Failure. It is about failure though and tt was a morale crushing experience for me. Intellectually I know that rejection is part and parcel of being a writer who submits their work for publication/critique by peers or publishers/agents. Emotionally though, when you believe in what you have written it is like a bucket of cold water over your head.

It was a setback because I was really excited about the setting, the descriptions, the characters. Everything except a solid plot. And that is what the majority of the feedback said. The reviewers seemed to like the characters and thought it was well written. However, no amount of exquisite prose can make up for a very weak (anemic really) storyline.

To show what I mean I posted the entire short story in its submitted format on a new page here.

Here is my own personal post mortem of what I did wrong.

  1. I did not plan the story out at all. A solid outline would have kept me from lacking focus. The story did not have a good beginning/middle/end or a goal for the protagonist to reach.
  2. Tried to put too much into a short story. I had a wealth of items I wanted to cram in for two of the main characters.
  3. Organization of the story. The story could have been pieced together differently which could have allowed for a more coherent delivery. This relates to item #1 only in definition. Even with a plot outline I still would have gone off target by jumping around through chronological time.

What did I do to recover? Nothing much. I took a step back from the story/characters in order to see what everyone was pointing out. I put the piece aside after an attempt to correct it did very little to improve the situation. I also wrote other things, like finishing a chapter in my current manuscript’s rough draft and finished off another short story I had started a while ago. I took my mind off the issue.

What I am doing with it? Nothing. For now. My intent was to use the short story as the basis for my third manuscript. Characters and the world were being developed. To that end, this piece succeeded. The characters were liked and the descriptions of the setting satisfactory. I need to do more research on my target city (Harrisburg) in the 1870s and 1880s.

There is no use crying over spilt milk as the saying goes. What I have here is a quart of milk tipped over by the cat on its way out to do something unprintable in the garden. The characters certainly are not going to waste. Like I said before, they are going to take part in a novel length work. This is ‘getting to know you’ time for them and me. I still wish that my first attempt at using them was more successful. Several good lessons were taught though and I will move on a richer writer for having learned them.

Thanks for reading this one. I hope you click over to the short story and check it out. As noted, plot is not great, and a few weak spots. Still you might find something interesting in it.



From → Writing

  1. I seriously have no idea how it is a faliure…maybe my taste. i love this form of narration where one gets to know the backdrop along with the activities of main characters, kinda potrays a picture of what ,where and how. also i am a dreamer i love when stories take me to a place not just a piece of action,although have read only two pages but i am quite enjoying the journey.

    • Thank you for your kindness. At first I saw the rejection as a failure. Then after rexamination, I took it as a very good lesson. I think I came away from the experience with more positive feelings than negative. I took that as a sign of growth, which is very important to me.

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