Novel Draft Done, Attempting Ground-up Re-Write

Gear Pile (from Make Magazine)


Finally finished FERAL CITY – THE OCCIDENTAL/IST/ISM – A CLOUD ACROSS THE FACE OF THE SUN novel I was working on, but I have decided to rip the thing apart and rebuild it.

I’m gonna kill that woman

When I’m with you…

Tiered Rejection Responses

I often see discussion about whether or not there really are tiered rejections at literary magazines. There are! Since I received a rejection letter this morning, I thought I’d share what I know as an editor. For ours, we use a simple content management system that allows us to collect and respond to submissions. It’s called Submissions Manager. I do not know how easy it is to customize the replies, but in our case we have four levels of rejection. Agni and One-Story also seem to use Submissions Manager (looks like One Story’s webmaster actually developed the software.). If a literary magazine’s submission page is plain with a small login in the top lefthand corner, and a registration page in the center; you are interfacing with (a/the/Mr./Ms?) Submissions Manager.

After I download and read a story and decide what I think about it, I have to switch the story’s status. I have four choices if I want to reject it, otherwise I can ‘accept’ or ‘withdraw’ it. (I don’t know what the accept button does!)

A standard rejection looks like this (ours is worded slightly differently):

Dear James McGirk:

Thank you for sending “The Godling of Greater Kailash.” Your work received careful consideration here.

We’ve decided this manuscript isn’t right for us, but we wish you luck placing it elsewhere.

Kind regards,

The Editors

That was from AGNI. I use this letter for almost all the submissions I read. Doesn’t mean anything really, just that I can’t use the story. Could mean it’s terrible — although most stories I get aren’t, and seem like they’ve been workshopped. Usually just means that the text didn’t grab me. More taste anything else. But if there is some horrid flaw, i.e. if the story is missing an arc, or it’s written in a different language I will send a standard rejection. But it really is almost always taste. (Or the aforementioned missing arc – and this can be emotional, or language based– the text just has to do something to me.)

The next stage is a second tier ‘nice’ rejection. I send more second-tier rejections than I should, the big difference being that we encourage these people to submit again (we are enormously backed up, so wanting to see anything more should be taken as a compliment). If I send one of these it means I enjoyed what I read. The story might not be perfect, but something about it was exciting. Here’s an example one from One-Story I received this morning (or at least I think it’s a 2nd tier rejection — these damn things stir up such conflicting emotions):

Dear James McGirk:

Thank you for sending us “The Godling of Greater Kailash”. We really enjoyed this piece, but we didn’t feel it was right for One Story.

We hope that you will continue to send us your work.

Sincerely,

The Editors of One Story

Now, I have neither sent out nor received a “very nice” third-tier rejection. These really are the same as the second-tier rejections, only more encouraging still… I don’t really know why I would send one of these instead of a “personal” 4th level or encouraging 2nd. Here is ours:

Thank you for sending us your work.

Unfortunately this particular manuscript was not the right fit for Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art, but we were very impressed by your writing. We hope that you will feel encouraged by this short note and send us something else.

We look forward to reading more.

Sincerely,

The Editors of Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art

I guess if we actually did want to see more, I could send one of these. But I would still rather send a fourth-tier rejection. These are just plain empty fields. I have used this feature to personally respond while rejecting a story. I basically said the story in question was great but it was too long, and I would love to see a shorter story. I published the second story he sent me.

Dear XXX

XXXXXX

Sincerely,

XXXXXX

And so there you have it… the four tiers of rejection….

The Q&A: Tom McCarthy

TOM MCCARTHY’S 2005 debut, “Remainder”, managed what the jackets of so many first novels promise: a fresh and—in this case—unsettling take on contemporary life. It is about a brain-damaged man who marshals millions of pounds and a troupe of actors, consiglieres and forensic experts to reconstruct a memory. It is an intentionally confusing and difficult book that manages to draw on both Proust and Beckett, yet remain intoxicatingly readable…

The Enemy

Gingko Press reproduction

McGurk’s Suicide Hall

McGurk's Suicide Hall


Image from The Bowery Boys

Just finished reading Luc Sante’s Low Life: Life and Snares of Old New York and was amused by the volume of material devoted to my ancestor John McGurk’s notorious Bowery bar – McGurk’s. He served whiskey shots needled with benzene, turpentine and cocaine sweepings, in an environment bad enough to drive his ‘girls’ to suicide. Six succeeded in 1899 alone, succumbing to quickly quaffed drams of carboxylic acid. McGurk was run out of town soon after, relocating to California, where his reputation apparently prevented his daughter from enrolling in convent school. He died in 1913. McGurk’s was demolished in 2005 and 295 Bowery has been rebuilt as part of glass complex, and looks the better for it, I do declare:

Recruitment/Defection

Soviet Agit-Prop (Global Security)

“[The] single, simple, self-evident explanation is that the enormous act of defection, of betrayal, treason, is almost invariably the act of a warped, emotionally maladjusted personality. It is compelled by a fear, hatred, a deep sense of grievance, or obsession with revenge far exceeding in intensity these emotions as experienced by normal, reasonably well-integrated and well-adjusted individuals.”

“All [Soviet defectors] in the writer’s experience have manifest some behavioral problem – such as alcoholism, satyriasis, morbid depression, a psychopathic behavior pattern of one type or another, an evasion of adult responsibility – which was adequate evidence for an underlying personality defect decisive in their defection. It is only mild hyperbole to say that no one can consider himself a Soviet operations officer until he has gone through the sordid experience of holding his Soviet “friend’s” head while he vomits five days of drinking into the sink.”

TARGET CHARACTERISTICS

  • (Suggests Eleazar Lipsky’s The Scientist as fodder for finding sociopath/psychopaths.)
  • Neurotic. Prepsychopathic. More interesting from ops standpoint. Characterized by strong conflicting currents visible as “spottiness” by an outside viewer. Characteristically unable to evaluate friend/foe objectively.
  • Middle-aged. Period of life from 37 on, which shows the highest incidence of divorce, infidelity etc. “Middle-aged revolt”

    SYMPTOMS AND SOURCES

    Alienation in interpersonal relationships. Lack of close friends in the Soviet colony. Evidence of coldness in personal relationships. Personally difficult to get along with. Arrogant, offensive, sullen, hostile….

    Career situation. Evidence or reasonable inference of difficulties in job situation. Resentment of supervision, direction, interference. Evasion of job responsibilities. Lack of appropriate career progression. Resentment of others’ progression.

    Family situation.

    Non-Duty Outlets. Avoidance of other Soviets. Excessive drinking. Infidelity. Wasting time away in trivial diversions. Predominance of diversions over responsibilities and obligations.

    Personality. Agressive vs. submissive evaluation. Rigid and compulsive behavior patterns. Anxiety and self-protective maneuvers. Unusual shyness and over-dependency. Or anxious efforts to over-please, over-submissiveness. Preoccupied with self (“McLandress dimension”), selfish, overestimating own problems, ideas, outlook. Excessively implusive, chronically impatient, easily angered. Hypersensitive, feelings easily hurt, unable to accept criticism. Tendency to blame others, evade own responsibility. Arrogant, excessively prestige- and status-conscious, anxious to impress everyone with own brilliance and importance. Great mood swings, depressions, evidence of low self-esteem or self-estimate. Constant criticism of others, fault finding, sarcastic manner, sarcastic or anti-social type of humor. Rigid, highly organized, inflexible personality or its opposite.

    (“On the Recruitment of Soviets,” Studies in Intelligence, 1965)

  • Spies as Suicide Bombers

    From Xinhua

    Graham Greene, an Mi6 correspondent during his days in Lagos, wrote that “espionage today is really a branch of psychological warfare. The main objective is to sow mistrust between allies in the enemy’s camp… The real value of the two scientists [Fuchs and Nunn May] to the Soviet was not from their scientific information but from their capture, and the breakdown in Anglo-American relations that followed. A spy allowed to continue his work without interference is far less dangerous than the spy who is caught.” (1968) Which brings us to “Anne Chapman” et al.

    Given their limited access, it seems likely that the spies apprehended were running agents and transmitting material – what has come to light seems of little value, and was unlikely to have been classified at all: airport diagrams, discussions of ground penetrating small yield nuclear weapons – so why, after ten years of investigation, bother busting them at all? Besides the personal snaps of the winsome staff of Future Map Advisory Services LLC., the salient feature of the news coverage surrounding the spies has been their gross incompetence. Their clumsy craft (invisible inks, dead drops, ludicrous code words etc.), their pathetic approaches – it hardly seems worth ten years of investigation. A few observers (see editorials) suggested it was a carefully timed ploy to disrupt strategic arms limitation talks ahead of G20, or perhaps force Russia’s hand on some Iran-related matter.

    Something isn’t adding up. If the spies’ antics were really as amateurish as they say, why wait ten years to catch them? The United States is downplaying the threat of Russian espionage, has agreed to withhold something from the press as leverage against Russia, or has simply learned to emphasize the incompetence as a way to mitigate the discomforting thought that there might be vast networks of foreign spies and saboteurs at work in the United States and there’s little our special policemen can do about it.

    Cover//Approach

    From a FOIA-released WWII training manual for special officers:

    Cover

    A: General

    Freedom – financial – social – movement – leisure.

    B: Essential details

    Name – history – documents – clothes – behavior (money-associates-tastes-local conditions-table manners-slang-mannerisms).

    iv. Coming down to business – change your line of appeal to suit the case, eg for a priest, based on religious grounds, etc.

    Let concrete suggestions come from him in the first stages.

    Test reactions thoroughly before coming out into the open.

    Sound by half-suggestions.

    From the first give him the suggestion that we are part of a powerful and well-organized body – prestige counts heavily.

    DO NOT TRY TO BUY PEOPLE