Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Big Lie and Dealing with Rejection

Recently, I was reading a sample chapter of Write Great Fiction - Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell on my Kindle.  It's a really interesting book and one I plan on purchasing soon.  From what I've read, it has a straight forward and honest approach to writing good plots.  What struck me, was that he started his book by talking about something he calls "The Big Lie".  "The Big Lie", he states, is that authors are born that way and you can't learn to be a good author.

When I was in college I was studying music and all of the history books were full of these amazing stories about these incredible composes.  In every one, it seemed that they just "knew" how to write amazing music.  Mozart composed his first symphony at 6.  Beethoven was able to compose most of his music while being profoundly deaf.  J. S. Bach composed a 4 voice fugue for the Czar of Russia completely out of his head.  Nowhere in any of these books did it talk about the time and effort they spent into learning and perfecting their craft.  People don't want to read all that boring stuff, so the historians gloss over it.  The same goes for all of the great artists, writers, composers, and thinkers.  The implication is that these people "just know".  The same can be said for people of higher intelligence.  It's a common misconception and one which James Scott Bell spent some time learning to get past.

What does this have to do with Rejection?  Simple.  My entire life, I have believed "the big lie".  I have always considered myself inferior to those around me because they would know something I didn't, or could do something I couldn't, etc.  It would make me very frustrated to have my older brother just seem to "know" things that I didn't.  What I didn't realize (or want to realize?) is that he had spent time learning these things.  He is, after all, two years older than me.  Of course, he would learn things before me, he had a two year head start.  DUH!

Anyway, I have submitted two manuscripts to publishers.  Both children's stories and both with polar opposite stories.  I've mentioned them in earlier posts.  The other day, I was going through my submission list on writersmarket.com (which is an awesome website if you are interested in getting your stories published) and I realized that of the 8 publishers that I had submitted my two stories to, I had been rejected by 6 each.  That's 12 rejections total.  Now I could take this and say, "Man, I must suck!  My friends are just being nice when they say my stories are good.  I should just quit.  I don't have that special something that people need to be a good writer."  I could say that, but it wouldn't be true.  J.K. Rowling had 12 publishers reject Harry Potter and look how that turned out.

Here is what all those rejections mean.  They mean a) I haven't found the right place for my stories and b) I might need to learn more before I get published.  I have a lot of ideas.  Not all of them will get published.  One of these days, I will get published.  It just hasn't happened yet.

The bottom line?  The Big Lie is just that, a lie.  Not a little lie, but a big fat, stinking, festering lie.  A lie that is perpetrated by historians and biographers.  They don't do it intentionally; they do it because it sells.  What about rejection?  Rejection is not an indication of talent.  It's just an indication that the publisher in questions isn't interested in your story.  They have lots of reasons for rejecting a manuscript.  Most of them have to do with perceived market value and what they think will sell and not with whether or you are a good writer or not.

As Orson Scott Card said in Elements of Fiction Writing - Characters & View​point, a writer has to believe two things simultaneously in order to be successful.  One, that what they are writing is the greatest work of literature ever conceived in the English language.  Two, that what they have written is complete drivel.

Till next time.  :D

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