I don’t often go outside the typical genres of fantasy, soft science, and horror, with a few notable exceptions for humor and my novel, which happened to be YA.
But I decided to take my chances and try writing in a genre of which I know very little: crime.
I guess I shouldn’t say I don’t know a little about crime fiction; after all I was totally addicted to Law & Order, and all of its spin-offs, as well as one of the greatest televisions dramas of all time, Homicide: Life on the Street.
But still, I can count the number of crime novels or short stories I’ve read in my entire life on zero fingers.
That didn’t deter me from attempting a quick piece of flash fiction, though. We can’t improve if we don’t try new things, right?
Anyhow, I sent it off to a couple of places to see what would happen. The first sent a form letter in a little over a week. Not unexpected, as most places send form letters, and I’ve even made the argument that form letters aren’t necessarily a bad thing.
The other publication, however, gave me one of the most honest (dare I say brutally honest) rejection letter’s I’ve ever received. I’m a big fan of the idea of learning from failure, and I learned a ton from this rejection.
Here are a few of the parts that really told me what I needed to know. I summarize a bit and put anything specific to the story itself in brackets, but you’ll get the point:
This doesn’t make sense. Why did [the major plot point happen] in the first place?
I couldn’t quite engage with this. It was too bland and filled with too many tropes.
This piece is a little corny. Lots of cliches and tropes here that you can find in any crime story. I would have liked to see something different. And maybe a little more emotion from [the main character] while he was [doing the thing the that story was about] — [lists three major plot holes] It didn’t really work for me.
Here’s what’s cool about this rejection.
1) I didn’t even see the plot holes until this rejection came. And one reviewer listed THREE of them. In a 1000 word piece, that’s really, um, bad.
2) Two of the reviewers mentioned cliches or tropes, which is something else I wasn’t aware of in the piece.
I’ve got to say, wow. Other than the fact that I’ve written a mediocre story (or worst :O) I’ve got to say this was a really eye opening experience for me.
The lesson here–and this is very important–is to be familiar with the genre you’re writing. This was a 1000 word crime story. I can afford to put this one away (maybe for good) and call it a learning experience.
But what about other things? My current WIP is a trilogy and I’m expect each book to be around 100,000 words. What if I’m not as familiar with fantasy as I think I am? What I if spend the next two years writing 300,000 words of cliches and tropes?
It’s a scary thought, isn’t it? So the best I can do is make sure I’m prepared.
Thanks for reading and if you’ve got any good rejection letters to share, feel free to leave a comment!