Feb 11 2010

An Artistic Thought Experiment for Writers: The Rejected Becomes the Rejecter!

Published by at 8:27 pm under Art,Writing Articles

Here’s an experiment to help you get into the time-strapped mindset of the publisher’s assistant or assistant editor evaluating your manuscript or comic book submission.  You’re an art editor that needs to select six works for the next stage of review.  But you only have one minute to decide. To make things easier on you (and my bandwidth), your boss has given you only an eye from each artist’s portfolio.  Pick your six favorites candidates and reject the rest.

Okay, do you have your six favorites ready? Then I have one key question for you…

Was #6 one of your top six? No.*

We’ve already seen enough to know that this art isn’t close to the top half of this pile. Why waste time investigating something you already know is a reject?

Writing is like that, too. If the first page of a novel is poor, it doesn’t matter how wonderful the rest of the book is.  The editor will probably reject the manuscript early because he assumes that the rest of the book is poor, too. That assumption isn’t necessarily correct.  Maybe the author wrote a horrible introduction to a book that’s otherwise a masterpiece. That’s possible.  But looking at #6, do you think “this could be a masterpiece” or “there’s more of this abomination?”

So, here’s some more advice about how to write a first page that will survive a frazzled editor.

  • Make the main character as interesting as possible.  DO NOT start with him waking up.  If his morning routine is really the most interesting thing about him, I’d recommend going back to the drawing board.  Have him do something that fits him but not most other characters, or start with an unusual detail unique to her.
  • Proofread or perish.  This is another shortcut editors use to evaluate writing talent.
  • Give him an urgent goal as soon as possible, ideally by the end of the first chapter.  It’ll improve the pacing, increase the stakes and draw in the audience.

*If you think #6 warrants serious consideration alongside these, you probably wouldn’t last long as an art editor.  No offense.

PS: Which six did you like best?

11 responses so far

11 Responses to “An Artistic Thought Experiment for Writers: The Rejected Becomes the Rejecter!”

  1. B. Macon 11 Feb 2010 at 8:47 pm

    All of these but 6 and 9 were really good. In terms of my favorite six, I probably would have gone with 1-4, 11 and 12.

    Here are links to the full-shots.

    1: Peter Petrelli (Heroes)

    2: Bertrand Russell

    3: Ronald Sugar (CEO of Northrup Grumman)

    4: Amaryllis

    5: Hiro Nakamura (Heroes)

    6: I refuse to link to this Danny Phantom fan-fiction.

    7: The Businessman

    8: Mary Jane

    9: Blonde Woman

    10: Oops, there is no #10.

    11: David. In classical art, David is sort of a big deal.

    12: Omni-Man (Invincible)

  2. Chris_the_Nerdon 12 Feb 2010 at 5:27 am

    I would have picked 3 and 8.

  3. Contra Gloveon 12 Feb 2010 at 7:45 am

    I picked 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, and 9.

  4. Lucas Irineuon 12 Feb 2010 at 10:08 am

    You forgot number 10.

    I would have picked 1,2,3,,5,8, and 12. I didn’t pick David, because I don’t think sculptures or pictures of sculptures would fit in a comic book.

    You should link to 6. As bad is it looks, I would like to see how bad the full thing is. Haha.

  5. Princess GGon 12 Feb 2010 at 12:50 pm

    I would’ve picked 3, 1, 4 and 12.

    It seems like these characters, just by viewing the eye, have the best style.

  6. B. Macon 12 Feb 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Lucas, I agree that David was hampered a bit by being the only photo here. Also, I think I had to stretch the picture of David to 300%, rather than 100-200% for the others. (That’s one reason I didn’t use the Mona Lisa or any Durers– I couldn’t find any versions that were remotely big enough to use here).

  7. Trollon 13 Feb 2010 at 9:08 am

    1,3,7,5,8 and 11.

  8. B. Macon 13 Feb 2010 at 11:14 am

    Ronald Sugar is getting a whole lot of loving.

    Also, I have a sort of tangential question. If you’ve looked at the links to the full works above rather than just the eyes, did any of the works seem significantly more or less attractive when viewed in full?



    Personally, I think Hiro Nakamura (#5) looked drastically more appealing in the full. The eye of #9 looked way too smooth to pass as human, but the full picture was far more flawed. #7 looks okay in the full but the eye alone didn’t impress me.

  9. Merideson 13 Feb 2010 at 8:08 pm

    1 3 5 8 2 and 7. And in the end, I would have chosen 8 as my winner. I loved that picture!

  10. Graceon 15 Feb 2010 at 2:55 am

    The six i picked are 4,9, 8, 11, 1 and 3.

  11. B. Macon 15 Feb 2010 at 8:32 am

    8 and 1 ended up getting quite a bit of lovin’, too.

    I think that opinions are subjective (duh) but NOT random. I think we agreed very easily about what was awful and we had quite a bit of agreement about which were among the best. (There would have been more disagreement if we had to pick a single work, but there probably wouldn’t be many surprises about which six made the first cut).

    If a writer or artist submits something at the amateurish level of #6, he/she will be rejected by every editor.

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