The CWC’s Steampunk collaboration, Army of Brass, is underway and I got to make my first selection this week. Five writers sent me five very different chapters, and I had a blast reading them all. But then, the moment of truth. I could only choose one, and then I had to write rejection letters to the other authors and it has really made me think a lot about this notion of “rejection.”
My only parameter as the coordinator is to “choose the chapter that moves the story along the best,” but best is one of the most subjective words in the English language! In our case, being grammatically perfect definitely isn’t our focus, and every chapter that is chosen goes through a round of editing before it moves on, but I also know that as a student of the English language I will have to make a conscious effort to overlook mistakes. I also know that I personally prefer to both read and write scenes where dialog does the heavy-lifting, but stylistically this won’t always jibe with what our writers submit. This isn’t to say I would never choose a chapter that didn’t have dialog, but being aware of my own bias is also important.
I have received tons of rejection letters, and one of the most common phrases is “it wasn’t the right fit.” Before, I always felt like that was a non-answer, but I think I get it now. For this week’s chapters, several writers elected to introduce a new location and/or characters, but no matter how much I liked what they did with those characters I felt it was too early in the story to do it for the sake of the readers. This was a structural issue, and in no way a commentary on the quality of the prose I received. In short, they just weren’t the right fit at that time. Editors and agents receive so many submissions and there are so many different factors at play, that there are any number of reasons something might not be the right fit, and it isn’t at all personal. Now the trick will be to remember that the next time I get rejected… 😉
This is such an amazing project with so many talented writers, I know my job isn’t going to get any easier! But I sure am going to learn a lot.
If you’d like to keep up with the weekly mini-summaries of the project or to view our working world map, go to the CWC Facebook page and like to follow along.