Five Minute Rant

Specifics about craft, talent, technique, etc.
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Martin L. Shoemaker
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Five Minute Rant

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Fri Mar 30, 2012 7:29 am

As you all know, I'm a big follower of Heinlein's Rules as propounded by Dean. (Such a big follower that I even drew a UML model of them.)

But let's be honest: even following the rules, rejection sucks. That's why my diagram includes the Five Minute Rant: a chance to acknowledge that it sucks, rant about it, get it out of your system, and move on.

It occurs to me this morning that we have a Success! thread, but maybe we need a Five Minute Rant thread. This isn't about pleas for sympathy, just a place to let out your Five Minute Rant among people who understand. After all, what good is a good rant if no one's around to appreciate it?

And I also suggest a No Moaning rule. Ranting is good, it motivates you to keep trying. Moaning is bad, it motivates you to wallow.

Why does this occur to me on this particular morning?

Well, just to get the thread rolling... I just got a package back from F&SF, containing my latest masterpiece and a form rejection.

RANT! RANT! RANT! RANT! RANT!

There, I feel much better. Off to Duotrope!

(That last line, by the way, is the best way to end every Five Minute Rant.)
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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby AMcCarter » Fri Mar 30, 2012 9:10 am

Oh, I am so in on this. How the hell is it I can get a semi-finalist, have K.D. tell me she loves my stories (THAT'S a rant for another day) and I still can't sell shite to a major publisher? I got a rejection from Analog in less than a week. It's like they're looking for my stories so they can kick them back.

*grumble grumble* Gonna go finish my Q2 now.
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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby Dustin Adams » Fri Mar 30, 2012 9:22 am

Saving this spot for a big ol future rant.
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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby E.CaimanSands » Fri Mar 30, 2012 10:45 am

Well same here. I haven't sold so much as a squashed banana either. And that's not just because they won't lie down. wotf049 (See what I mean?)

I put it down to:
1. Not having written much yet, probably less than 50,000 words and most of that dreadful .
2. I've only really been sending stuff to SFWA qualifying markets so far
3. The two stories that have travelled furthest are probably my weakest still in circulation, so unlikely to sell to the best markets
4. I've eaten all the really really bad ones rather than send them out to all the little magazines who I'm sure are better off without them
5 . I'm an alligator. No one likes alligators.
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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby Solanavi77 » Fri Mar 30, 2012 11:14 am

I've sort of become immune to rejections. After hitting 20, I think I became like the king who slowly drinks poison so he builds up a resistance. At first, it kinda stung, but then you realize rejection can be divorced from quality. Excellent stories get rejected.

My attitude is to pump out science fiction I want to write. Stuff I would like to read and stuff that I enjoy writing. And if I can't sell a story, well, fine. I'll write another one. Eventually I will make it. That's my attitude. And so will all of you.

My only complaint is always getting a form rejection. I'd like to become a better writer through failure.

Oh, and I don't want to hear the excuse "I get hundreds of stories each month, I can't give personal feedback on all of them." Bullshit. I have 40 students, each of which I give personalized, extensive feedback on their essays. I even look at drafts, if requested. I do this all in the span of a week, while writing science fiction, doing a lot of homework, teaching, etc.

There's no good reason why a personalized letter, even with just on or two sentences saying "Your story didn't make it because of x, y, z," can't be sent.


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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby morshana » Fri Mar 30, 2012 11:29 am

Perhaps giving one or two sentences opened the door for many back-and-forth emails of people wanting more explanation or requesting to send in rewrites and such. The form rejection closes the door to future conversation on that particular story.

Also, I have received the one or two sentence personal feedback and it raised more questions than answered.
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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby izanobu » Fri Mar 30, 2012 3:08 pm

I don't even read my rejections anymore. I just open them, scan quickly to make sure it's a rejection (usually takes a sentence or two) and file. I get too annoyed and unhappy if I read them, especially the personal ones. I'm never going to sell that story to that editor, so I don't give a sh*t why they rejected it. It wasn't for them, moving on. (And before anyone tells me I might miss a rewrite request this way, I have a policy of no longer doing rewrites without a contract attached. Too many bad experiences rewriting on spec. No money, no rewrite.)

My mini-rant is what happened to my damn ebook sales. March sucks. Argh.

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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Fri Mar 30, 2012 3:16 pm

izanobu wrote:My mini-rant is what happened to my damn ebook sales. March sucks. Argh.


That's a shame. I'm enjoying Deep Black Beyond. I know, that money's already in your pocket months ago, which won't help March sales; but maybe my review when I'm done will help a little.
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WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!
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REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT!
Patience. Patience. Patience. Patience. Patience.
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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby Imagination Vortex » Fri Mar 30, 2012 3:37 pm

I’ve become immune to rejections too. That is, unless it’s a new endeavor that I’ve recently tried to pursue. The first rejection for me is always the hardest. My Q1 story was the first writing rejection I’ve ever got. It took me a while to get over it. But as time passes I find it easier to move on from my failures and keep going. I’ve been writing a blog for years now and no one has ever read it. I’ve uploaded videos, posted pictures, even created a website for my art hoping I would get “discovered.” It didn’t work. I’ve even tried to sell my art online. One store has been open for a year and I’ve made zero sales. The other place I sell things on is ebay. That does give me money, but not by selling my art. The only thing that works is selling my old toys and things I no longer need/use and only if I reduce the price to half of what I paid for it. At least it’s something. But the one thing that tops all that is how many job rejections I’ve accumulated. I’ve applied to 110 places now and they have all ended in rejection. Actually, I even find that I laugh now when another rejection comes in. It’s become a joke. But through it all I keep trying. I still write in my blog. I still upload videos and art. I still apply to jobs. I’ll continue to write stories for this contest. That’s because I know one day my luck will change. I don’t know how and I don’t know when, but sooner or later it will. I never run out of new ideas.
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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby WriteToLive » Fri Mar 30, 2012 8:44 pm

AMcCarter wrote:Oh, I am so in on this. How the hell is it I can get a semi-finalist, have K.D. tell me she loves my stories (THAT'S a rant for another day) and I still can't sell shite to a major publisher? I got a rejection from Analog in less than a week. It's like they're looking for my stories so they can kick them back.

*grumble grumble* Gonna go finish my Q2 now.


Tell me about it. I'm beginning to find Analog's really unfriendly to newer writers. I sent my piece in and in 2 weeks, which used to be 30 days, I get the usual form rejection letter.

It's like they only look for actual technology in the stoires anymore, then read them. If they don't find anything plausable, they junk it. That really grinds my gears.

And you know what else really grinds my gears. When I can't find these droids that I'm looking for.

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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby FictionMuse » Sat Mar 31, 2012 5:44 am

According to a slush reader at Alien Skin, my athlete story held the editorial team til the end. But they had the notion that a story with an athlete as a main character should include a sports match. The story was inspired by another athlete story. I read the story on the Critters Workshop. His athlete story didn't include a sports match either. Neither are sports stories, both are athlete stories. The author shared comments from his rejection letters. Turns out the editors who rejected his story had the same notion. They were impressed with my story, but it didn't comform to their assumption.

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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby FictionMuse » Sat Mar 31, 2012 5:50 am

I have a policy of no longer doing rewrites without a contract attached. No money, no rewrite.


I wish I had said that. Should be standard operating procedure, industry wide.

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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby FictionMuse » Sat Mar 31, 2012 5:56 am

Agreed. Withdrawn.
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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby Patrick S. McGinnity » Sat Mar 31, 2012 6:11 am

Though it was Martin (and not I) who founded this thread, I'd like to suggest, in the interest of what I perceive to be the initial intention, that perhaps we should limit it to rants and commiserations only. A rant should be just that, a rant. It needn't conform to logic or reality--it is an emotional pressure valve of sorts. If those of us who feel the need to post a rant on this thread have to worry about also defending our rants, it would seem that we might reign it in, and that the relief the rant is intended to provide might be tempered a bit. Though we may not agree with the details of each other's rants, maybe we can just give them space to exist unchallenged on this dedicated thread. Just a thought.
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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby george nik. » Sat Mar 31, 2012 8:22 am

Or we could have an official Rants Only thread and a Jibber-Jabber Rant thread. wotf008
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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby Patrick S. McGinnity » Sat Mar 31, 2012 8:26 am

Or one for Rants, one for Jibber Jabber, another for Rational Responses, and a fourth for Rant Tangents that are Neither Rational nor Jibber Jabber. He, he.
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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby Sam Hidaka » Mon Apr 02, 2012 2:43 pm

Solanavi77 wrote:{snipped by SH}

My only complaint is always getting a form rejection. I'd like to become a better writer through failure.

Oh, and I don't want to hear the excuse "I get hundreds of stories each month, I can't give personal feedback on all of them." Bullshit. I have 40 students, each of which I give personalized, extensive feedback on their essays. I even look at drafts, if requested. I do this all in the span of a week, while writing science fiction, doing a lot of homework, teaching, etc.

There's no good reason why a personalized letter, even with just on or two sentences saying "Your story didn't make it because of x, y, z," can't be sent.

{snipped by SH}


There are several issues.


First, there is a fundamental difference between being an editor (or a member of an editorial staff) and being a teacher giving feedback to students.

As a teacher, your primary responsibility is to teach your students. You are a service provider, and the students are your customers. (Well . . . technically, the parents of the students are your customers.)

As a fiction editor, the readers are the customers who are your primary responsibility to serve. And the writers are service providers to the editors -- not the other way around.


Second, offering feedback can become an untenable time-sink.

See this post by Gary Cuba (who was one of my associate editors when I was assistant editor at Jim Baen's Universe):

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=455&p=9626&sid=51316b44001fd1e7806298cb04ae572c#p9626

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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Mon Apr 02, 2012 3:35 pm

Thank you, Sam! It's always good for us to learn about life on the other side of the transaction.

I've heard people advise that authors should volunteer as slush readers to understand the scope of the slush pile. I don't have time for that nor where I would even volunteer, but I can understand the idea.
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WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!
SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT!
REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT!
Patience. Patience. Patience. Patience. Patience.
NNiNN

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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby Solanavi77 » Mon Apr 02, 2012 3:43 pm

Sam Hidaka wrote:As a teacher, your primary responsibility is to teach your students. You are a service provider, and the students are your customers. (Well . . . technically, the parents of the students are your customers.)


My point being the excuse that they don't have the time. I understand who the customer base is (though I refuse to see education in capitalistic terms. But that's my own bias).

"Your story didn't make it because it was poorly plotted."

That took 10 seconds to write. If an editor spends only 10 minutes a day writing one line personal responses, thats 60 responses. This is really too much to ask? really? wotf017

Notice I didn't ask for long, detailed responses. Just a line or two which takes a few seconds. Everyone improves. Editors don't keep getting crappy stories if the authors pay attention to the criticism and authors improve. It's a win wind. I find it incredible that not giving personal one or two line responses isn't just a case of laziness.

And if it's laziness, fine. Just be honest.
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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby Kary English » Mon Apr 02, 2012 3:54 pm

In my understanding, it's not so much the 10 seconds to tick off a checkbox that says "Plot issues." It's the oddly high number of writers who will then write back and argue with you, threaten lawsuits or violence, post the rejection as evidence that the editor is racist / anti-semitic / has a disturbing fondness for small woodland animals, etc., and/or take the rejection as a rewrite request - which starts the whole cycle over again.

Sam is the Editor over at the Universe Annex (somebody correct me if I got that wrong), so he knows of which he speaks.

'Nother example - Jason Sizemore over at Apex has expressly forbidden his slushers from including comments after writers repeatedly hate-mailed the slush team and/or engaged in public rants over it.

I've seen how much slush Sam's team goes through (and God help them, I'm about to add to it), and how many helpful and lengthy comments the team gives over at Baen's Bar, so while I've never been an editor (ok, that's not true. I've edited academically), I can assure you from personal involvement over at Baen's that it's got nothing to do with laziness.

ETA: By 'personal involvement' I mean "submitting my stories, making and receiving comments, stalking their fora, etc.'"
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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Mon Apr 02, 2012 4:01 pm

Kary James wrote:Sam is the Editor over at the Universe Annex (somebody correct me if I got that wrong), so he knows of which he speaks.


No, you're not wrong; and yes, he knows in intimate detail. And no, I don't think it's at all correct to call him lazy. Or any editor, for that matter. They're not your crit group, they're your customer.

And even if you're absolutely sure you're right, it's never a smart business move to bad-mouth your customers. Editors are waaaaaay too busy to remember rejected stories five minutes after those stories leave their desk; but there's always time to remember difficult authors. And avoid them.
Martin L. Shoemaker
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WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!
SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT!
REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT!
Patience. Patience. Patience. Patience. Patience.
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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby ThomasKCarpenter » Mon Apr 02, 2012 4:04 pm

Solanavi77 wrote:
"Your story didn't make it because it was poorly plotted."

That took 10 seconds to write. If an editor spends only 10 minutes a day writing one line personal responses, thats 60 responses. This is really too much to ask? really? wotf017

Notice I didn't ask for long, detailed responses. Just a line or two which takes a few seconds. Everyone improves. Editors don't keep getting crappy stories if the authors pay attention to the criticism and authors improve. It's a win wind. I find it incredible that not giving personal one or two line responses isn't just a case of laziness.

And if it's laziness, fine. Just be honest.


It might take 10 seconds to write, but it takes much longer to come up with feedback that can actually help the writer. My experience is by no means even a tenth of Sam's but editing Mirror Shards has been an instructive experience.

Like most editors, I read to reject. If a story doesn't grab me right away, then I'm going to reject it. To really analyze why I'm rejecting it might take 5-10 minutes if I really wanted to think about it (and would require reading through the text a few times.) That means that 60 stories would become an immeasurable timesink (okay, it's measurable, but I'm not doing math today!) And sometimes the answer is just: "I wasn't my thing."

Solanavi--the honest truth is that if you're getting rejections, it just means you need to write more and read more. There's no other advice that's going to help you get published. Getting feedback on "that story" isn't going to sell it, because either someone likes it or they don't. You can't polish it into acceptance.

My guess, and I apologize if I'm wrong about this, is that you've only gotten a few dozen rejections. The early ones sting the most and you want to practice rejectomancy to figure out why so you can fix it when the real answer is, as I said before, to read more and write more.

I think I'm up to (guessing here) around 350 rejections. Recently I actually had nineteen stories out at the markets. I honestly don't even think about the rejections anymore. I just mark it down and fire it back out. Most of my time is spent thinking about writing the next story. Don't worry about what editors think because honestly, we're just human and don't always know either (what doesn't work for one might work for another.)
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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby Solanavi77 » Mon Apr 02, 2012 4:25 pm

Ugh. Forget I said anything. I thought this was a RANT thread. Guess not.
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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby Solanavi77 » Mon Apr 02, 2012 4:27 pm

Martin L. Shoemaker wrote:And no, I don't think it's at all correct to call him lazy.


ugh...I called no one lazy. I say *if*, notice the conditional, *if* it's laziness, just be honest.
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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby Solanavi77 » Mon Apr 02, 2012 4:34 pm

Just so we are clear and so I don't come out as the bad guy, here is the context of my statements:

"I get hundreds of stories each month, I can't give personal feedback on all of them."

I was responding to THIS claim from editors.

Now, if there are other reasons, fine. I can live with that. Don't want to deal with psychos? Fine. Fair enough. But the claim that *I don't have time* was what I was disputing.

Alright?
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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby Strycher » Mon Apr 02, 2012 4:57 pm

Solanavi77 wrote:Ugh. Forget I said anything. I thought this was a RANT thread. Guess not.


Patrick S. McGinnity wrote: . . . perhaps we should limit it to rants and commiserations only. A rant should be just that, a rant. It needn't conform to logic or reality--it is an emotional pressure valve of sorts. If those of us who feel the need to post a rant on this thread have to worry about also defending our rants, it would seem that we might reign it in, and that the relief the rant is intended to provide might be tempered a bit. Though we may not agree with the details of each other's rants, maybe we can just give them space to exist unchallenged on this dedicated thread. Just a thought.


As always, Sam's input is absolutely invaluable (and thanks for offering it!), and I'd hate to discourage Tom from revealing things he's looking for in the next anthology . . .

But I, personally, don't like form rejects either. Reasonably I understand why they exist and why I got one, and if I was an editor I would use them too. But this is the rant thread, and the next time I get one, I hope I can rant a bit about it here.

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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby Solanavi77 » Mon Apr 02, 2012 5:05 pm

Look, I don't want to make enemies on here. And I sure don't want to torpedo my writing career before it even started. I like you all. And many, if not most of you have experiences I can learn from. I was just looking to rant.

Peace? wotf008
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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby Strycher » Mon Apr 02, 2012 5:13 pm

I think you'll have to try a lot harder to make enemies here. I frequently say more inflammatory things than that.

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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby Kary English » Mon Apr 02, 2012 5:13 pm

Strycher wrote:I think you'll have to try a lot harder to make enemies here. I frequently say more inflammatory things than that.



Uh-huh. She does.

*ducks and runs*

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Re: Five Minute Rant

Postby Strycher » Mon Apr 02, 2012 5:24 pm

Kary James wrote:
Strycher wrote:I think you'll have to try a lot harder to make enemies here. I frequently say more inflammatory things than that.



Uh-huh. She does.

*ducks and runs*

Kidding!!


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