Philip Brewer's Writing Progress


Sunday, 08 July 2001

Got a rejection today, so I now have no stories out to editors. I'll fix that pretty promptly, once I get home.

One of the instructors got a story rejected while he or she was here. In class the next day we got a demonstration of "how a pro handles rejection." The demonstrated technique involves sitting in a chair, pulling your feet up so that you can get your knees near your chin, wrapping your arms around your head, rocking forward and back, bouncing up and down, and alternating between expressions of denial and expressions of outrage, with the outrage being directed variously at the universe in general, the editor in particular, and anything else that's handy.

I've tried it. It doesn't help.

On the other hand, I handle rejections of my stories pretty well. First, I'm clear in my head on the fact that it's just a rejection of one story by one editor. The story will probably sell eventually. (And, if it doesn't, then I'll probably eventually be glad it didn't.) And the editor will probably buy something of mine eventually. Second, I have a very high opinion of my own work. Some people don't--they require constant affirmation from the outside world that their work is good. But I generally think my own stories are great.

I've always thought my stories were great, including stories that I can look back at and, let's just say, see the flaws in now. Some people might think they can see a pattern there, but not me. I may have been over-enthusiastic about a few pieces in the past. But that doesn't mean that I'm over-enthusiastic about any of the stories I'm working on now. They're all great.

That's not to say that I don't sometimes write a story and not like it. Usually I don't finish a story that I don't like, but sometimes I do push through to the end as an exercise. But I'm able to compartmentalize those stories as "failed experiments" and not worry that it reflects on the quality of my writing. Sort of like in sports when you were a kid: You take a shot; if it didn't go where you wanted, you say, "That was just a practice shot" and try again. Repeat until you get something you like.

I had hoped to finish my story today, so I could revise it tomorrow and hand it in Tuesday. But it's not done yet. It's in pretty good shape. I've got 2410 words, there's probably less than 1000 to go. And I've got a pretty good idea how the story will go. So, I think I can wrap it up in just two or three more hours of writing. But that'll have to be Monday afternoon, I guess.

Dora pointed me to a couple of interesting exhibits at the Kresge Art Center. One called "Botanica: Contemporary Art and the World of Plants" is what you might expect to find in an art museum. The other, described as an "installation of coiled hay," is much more interesting than you could be led to expect from any remotely accurate description. It's on display outside the entrance to the Art Museum building.

A bunch of us went out to a Thai place that's within walking distance. There weren't any tables big enough for the whole group, so we ended up sitting at two tables. Dora and I sat at the table with Mary.

We talked about various writerly thing. One thing that Mary mentioned was flip strength. To test for flip strength you read the first paragraph of a story, then flip through it, reading random paragraphs. In a story with good flip strength, every paragraph is compelling.

It's an interesting idea, because I don't really craft my paragraphs. I craft my sentences and I craft my scenes. But I tend to let the paragraphs just come out however seems to serve the scene. So I think I can build the flip strength of my stories pretty easily just by thinking in terms of making each paragraph compelling in its own right. That's certainly worth doing.


Philip Brewer's Writing Progress homepage