There’s Good News And Bad News

Remember typewriters!?

Remember typewriters!?

Oh, isn’t the life of a writer full of ups and downs?

Today was the start of a new term for my writing class and I was thrilled to have 11 students there (the most I’ve ever had), including 3 ‘newbies’ who I’m hoping will become regulars.

It’s my own class: I book and pay for the room, decide on the syllabus and am responsible for getting ‘bums on seats’ and I spend a lot of time and effort trying to promote it (I’ve even got posters up in the back windows of my car this time!), so it’s really satisfying to see some results from that and to feel that the class is, at least for the time being, ‘full’.

Everyone was full of beans this morning. In fact, at times, I could hardly get a word in edgeways but that’s great – and how it should be!

One of the topics we discussed was the importance of that ‘good first line’ but I also told them about the Bulwer-Lytton contest which ‘challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels’ and takes its inspiration – and name – from the author of this opening line to a novel published in 1830: “It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

If you want a laugh, have a look at the site (‘where ‘www’ means wretched writers welcome’) and read some of the winners. I particularly like this one from a few years ago.

And who knows, you might feel inspired to enter the competition (entries for next year’s competition close on April 15th, 2015).

Here are the entry form and the rules.

One of the main things to remember is that, no matter how funny you think your opener is, it still has to sound like the first line of novel!

So, after all that fun in the class today, I got home and logged onto my emails and there was a dreaded rejection from People’s Friend. (ie: The Bad News).

Of course, I’m always getting rejections but this was a story for which I had high hopes and I’d spent hours and hours on it. It was also a longer story than I normally write, at 4000 words (just as fiction editor Shirley Blair had requested during her talk at Swanwick).

Apparently it was all a bit predictable and didn’t have enough twists and surprises to keep the reader interested. So, it’s back to the drawing board for me. (Someone needs to lock me in The Cave for a few days and only let me out when I have produced something better!)

How’s your week going? What significant ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ have you had? Come on, you know you want to share…

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15 Responses to There’s Good News And Bad News

  1. pkin847126 says:

    Just had a contract from Austin Macauley ( I asked if anyone knew of them a few weeks ago). The problem is they want £2500 as a contribution towards publishing!
    I’m not doing it but asked some more questions to see how they would react.
    I particularly wanted to see if they would put me in touch with any authors who had gone down the same route – but they can’t for ‘confidentiality reasons’. May be this is normal but it raised my suspicions even more. Particularly as I couldn’t find most of the authors on their website anywhere else apart from Amazon in some cases.
    I have found one now who had a traditional publishing contract from them. He says this is because he already had a track ready from two previous books that he’d self-published and did well. But he’d had to pay for proof reading twice as he says their books are littered with errors and he also does all his own publicity.
    i also asked some more technical stuff which they have ignored.
    Apart from that I worked for hours on the homework for my Creative Writing group, read it out and no-one liked it – so back to the drawing board there too
    So – its been a strange week so far nd its only Friday.

  2. Keith Havers says:

    At least Shirley gives feedback which is more than the other editors do. Maybe you could work on it and resubmit or try another mag.

  3. Tracy Fells says:

    I think good and bad news goes hand in hand in the writer’s life, Helen. Sorry to rub it in but I recently sold my first ever Xmas story to TPF. However, I had sent the story last Aug so it only took a year, but I’m still chuffed to know I will have a story in the Xmas issue. And you have to admit Shirley Blair or her colleagues always send the sweetest rejections. At least you get feedback! The not-so-good-news are too numerous to mention: didn’t hear from Bridport or the BBC Short Story comp and many many others.

  4. Linda says:

    Still ‘up’ following my daughter’s wedding and a lovely holiday. But I came home with 100’s of photos to sort and lots of ideas for new stories and articles so now the ‘down’ is a very long to-do list.

  5. Wendy Clarke says:

    Eleven students! Word is obviously spreading, Helen… it doesn’t seem five minutes ago you were just thinking about tutoring. Sorry to hear about the PF rejection… especially as the story was so long. Would WW like it? Bad news was having a rotten cold and writers block due to cotton wool head. Good news was second serial and a couple of stories accepted by (sorry) PF and one by FF.

  6. Well done, Wendy, you’ve had a great week. I think I’d be prepared to put up with a horrible cold if I’d had all that work accepted! Yes, I am going to have another look at the story and see if I can ‘jazz it up’ a bit (?!) and try it on WW. You never know… !

  7. Sounds to me like more ups than down – congratulations on the success of your writers’ group, Helen. Hard to understand why we writers continue to invite rejection! Perhaps we’re just very brave?

  8. KH says:

    Well done on getting your writing group going, Helen and commiserations on your recent ‘Remarketing Opportunity’ from PF. Some returns hurt more than others for some reason. I recently worked very hard on a 4K word story for another mag and felt very sad when it was not accepted. Partly because I knew it had all the right ingredients but obviously wasn’t received well on the day. However what I would say is maybe rename, rework, shorten and change the thrust of the tale slightly. I’ve done this with a few of my longer tales that I’ve found it hard to find a home for and been pleasantly surprised to sell at a later date. So good luck with the story next time out. Good wishes Kate Hogan

    • Thanks Kate.. yes, I am revamping my story (with some advice from my writing buddy!) and have changed the title, the point of view and quite a lot of what happens – and I still haven’t finished ‘tinkering’ with it, so fingers crossed for its next outing, whenever that may be!

  9. Leonora Francis says:

    When I first started writing, rejections almost physically hurt, ‘Ouch!’. But now, I immediately put them aside and move on to the next story. I force myself not to look at the rejected story for at least 2 months and then go back to it with a clearer head. Like KH I’ve sold quite a few previously rejected stories doing it this way. Good luck everyone, and like KH said, remodeling a rejection can often reap rewards x
    P.S. Don’t get me wrong, I still get lots of rejections but I’ve almost become immune, lol x

    • Leonora, thanks, that’s good advice. I, too, have become less sensitive to rejections (although they are still disappointing!!). Now, though, my attitude is more “Ah well, onwards and upwards!” and actually, 2 out of the 3 stories that I have in the current (Nov) TABFF were originally rejected by another magazine. So, yes, it’s definitely worth ‘revisiting’ rejected stories after some time has elapsed. And the more stories you have ‘out there’ and the more you are writing, the less worried you are by each rejection, so the answer to rejection is: write more!

  10. KH says:

    Well done for having 3 stories in the TABFF, Helen. Fantastic! I haven’t bought it yet. Hello to Leonora too – love your stories Leonora. Like Leonora says, sometimes putting the story to one side for a while is a good idea, doing that works for me too. I actually had a stint at writing way back in 1992 then a big gap before I began again in 2010 and I’ve actually remodelled and resold a good number of my rejections from all that time ago. Many of which were rejected about five times! That’s one of the very good things about writing – it’s always there with the possibility of revision once you’ve written it. Good wishes

  11. Leonora Francis says:

    Thanks KH. I might go back and look at my rejected stories form 2012, which is when I started, and have a go at remodeling some of them too. Thanks for that!

  12. KH says:

    You’re welcome, Leonora. Good luck to both Helen and you with the rewrites. I’m working on some this week, so good luck to me too! KH

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