Helen (heleninwales) wrote,

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On 13 December I used the Yes/No floaty pen to answer a couple of questions. The first was, "Will I sell my short story 'The Witch's Cat' to Interzone?" It said "No". It was right. I received the rejection a few days ago and have been mulling it over since.

They said:

Thank you for submitting your story to Interzone. Apologies for the lengthy delay in responding. It is not for us, I'm afraid. It does not need to be as long to make the point it does. Sorry.

At which my thoughts went: "Right. OK. Fair enough..." [pause] "Um... So what point was I trying to make, exactly?"

The generally recommended course of action when receiving a rejection (at least on rec.arts.sf.composition) is to send the story straight out to the next editor on the list. However, in this case, I've put it on one side until I decide whether it's fixable. I'm perfectly happy with the writing on the sentence by sentence, scene by scene level, but what is the story about? I'm darned if I know. And until I do, it's not fair to inflict it on another editor.

The problem with "The Witch's Cat" is that I was trying to pull off the trick I managed with "The House in the Hollow" (sold to MZB's Fantasy magazine), namely to take a local legend and bring it forward to the present day. But whereas with "The House in the Hollow", my subconscious story-writing brain did a good job and turned a snippet of local legend into a real story, with "The Witch's Cat" it didn't come up with the goods. So if subconscious story-writing brain has failed, the only way to salvage the story is to work it out consciously and deliberately.

It may be something about the legend I've chosen. "The House in the Hollow" was based on little more than a snippet, not what you would call a "story" in the modern sense of the word; though this didn't matter because "it really happened" is all the excuse the legend needed. Many years ago (or so it is said), fairies used to come to a cottage not too far from here to borrow an iron griddle. My story set in the modern day used the legend as a jumping off point. What would happen if you hung the griddle out in the porch today and it got borrowed?

The story I based "The Witch's Cat" on was more extensive, but this may be the problem. The original was a tale of tit for tat. The local lord set his hounds on the witch Siwsi's cat and killed it. But she had her revenge and, turning herself into a hare, she lured the lord's hounds to their deaths in a ravine. End of story. In the first version, that's where my modern story ended (substituting car for hounds), with the bad guy going over the ravine and writing off his car, though escaping serious injury. I then decided that it should have a more positive ending, and I continued the story a bit further, having the bad guy have a change of heart as a result of his narrow escape and taking a more relaxed "live and let live" attitude. From the rejection note, it seems this wasn't an utter failure and it may be that it will work if I can cut the story somewhat to get to the point quicker.

I will let it sit, continue working on the novel and see whether any inspiration turns up.

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