Monday, February 26, 2007

Writing Chats on AOL: Obstacles to Writing, Rejection

By Mel DuVall, IWW Administrator

Always remember the knowledge and experiences of the host, presenters, and even attendees limit the content of chats and workshops. The publishing industry is large, complex, and changing to meet new challenges. New technologies make it easier for many to write, but don’t guarantee the works produced will be better than those of the past.

View chats and workshops and all self-help tools and books with a critical eye. Use what helps to improve your own work. Learn to judge quality over quantity. Honing one’s critical skills is an important writing tool.Two recent AOL chats point out this problem. One focused on Obstacles to Writing and another on Rejections. They illustrate the point.

The chat on Obstacles, a popular chat topic, identified some important elements, but also veered off in the later discussion to the experiences of two participants. Some of these latter points remained specific to the persons raising them.

Among the useful points: lack of confidence, overconfidence, lack of knowledge, trying too hard (straining for literary prose or the perfect hook), over-or underwriting of dramatic passages. The consensus: get the story down first and worry about the perfect metaphor later. Once you have a draft, you can revise it. Once the ending is set, the hook becomes much clearer. It also makes it easier to tell when and where to start the piece.

The chat on Rejections veered off into using Feng Shui to decorate a writing office. Useful points emerged, however.

Don’t agonize over rejection. Keep writing and reading books and market news of your genre. While rejection letters might help convince the IRS you’re a serious writer, file them away and move ahead.

In those few cases where an editor sends comments, do your best to understand what they mean. Sometimes, it’s just a way of letting you down easily, but most editors are too busy for idle comments, so read any such responses with care. They may point to needed revisions or story weaknesses. Most offer only a form-letter response or a scrawled ‘no.’

Participants deplored the mergers among publishing houses, but others noted new ones start up all the time. The host spoke highly of e-publishing and e-zines. More of them offer payment or royalties for longer works.

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