Monday, 29 February 2016

If the name fits

Most of my fictional characters are born with their names firmly attached. As soon as I have a sense of their personality, and a rough idea of age, appearance and occupation, I don’t usually have to think too hard to find a suitable name.

But, every now and then, I try out a whole list of names and end up rejecting them all. This has just happened in a new story that I’m hoping will be included in the collection I’m writing for Alfie Dog Fiction.

The character in question is a criminal who uses a false name, but his own name is revealed at the end of the story. The false name was easy enough to choose, but I couldn’t decide on his real name.

Hm, let me think. He’s up to no good, but he’s also clever and rather charming ...

Ah, yes, that reminds me of another lovable rogue.

tabby kitten resting on chair, looking at camera

I’ve borrowed his name; it fits perfectly.

(And if your name is Rufus – or you know a Rufus – please don’t sue me for libel. I’m not writing about you. Honest!) 

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

No more rejections?

During a decluttering session last week, I came across these cartoons that I drew way back in 1990 for the long-departed Writers’ Monthly magazine.

It occurred to me that they just wouldn’t work today because writers no longer collect piles of rejection slips – at least, not the paper ones.

Our books, stories and articles are still turned down by editors and publishers of course, but the bad news is more likely to be delivered by email than Royal Mail. Many smaller publishers, online magazines and websites don’t even bother to send any kind of rejection. They simply say that if they don’t contact you within 'x' number of weeks or months you can assume your submission has been unsuccessful.

There are some writing traditions I’m glad to have left behind – typewriters for example – but I wish now that I’d kept all my old rejection slips. I did have a cardboard folder full of them at one time. I tried to see them as a record of my progress rather than proof of failure.

For example, my first rejection from one magazine was an unsigned, Xeroxed slip of paper. The next one was the same, but with the addition of someone’s scribbled initials. My third or fourth was signed on behalf of the editor, and then - oh, joy! - I received one not only signed in person by the editor, but with a handwritten sentence added saying something like my story was nicely written but not quite good enough. It was still a flat rejection, but knowing that my work had at last reached as far as the editor’s desk made me even more determined to keep trying.

These days, I do keep ‘encouraging’ rejections for a while – those where someone has taken the time and trouble to explain the reason for rejection – but a standard ‘Thanks, but no thanks’ email is usually deleted straight away.

How about you? Do you keep your rejections? Do they depress you, or spur you on?      
PS  I’ve just noticed some other things that make these cartoons quaintly old-fashioned. Visits in person to the tax office are almost unheard of now, and the amount I spend on postage in the course of a year’s writing is hardly worth claiming as a business expense.

PPS  As useful as rejection slips can be, an acceptance is always better. Very pleased to report that the first few stories I’ve submitted to Alfie Dog Fiction for my story collection have not been rejected!