My manuscript is getting read by editors, and so far, the rejections follow. The last two rejections included some helpful suggestions, so I have shortened the manuscript, taken out some characters, and added a scene to clarify the identify of one character. A list of characters, both historical and non-historical, is now available.
But let's face it - rejection hurts. As I have read the notes written by editors, it occurred to me that the feedback I provide for students is similar to the feedback I have been receiving. Recently the editors are not writing the generic "this is not a good fit for us" but the more specific "the number of characters is daunting. As times shift, it’s hard to keep anchor. " I admit 45 characters may seem overwhelming, though some of my favorite Charles Dickens' books have more characters. I'm not comparing myself to the indomitable Charles Dickens - but sweeping historical novels often need many characters to populate the space and time.
As I read the notes from editors like "it's definitely a 'no' at this point," I think of the notes I write on my students' work. Do my messages encourage them, or discourage them? Do they inspire students to work harder, or hurt their feelings? I'm thinking a lot more about what I'm writing, and how I'm communicating in the feedback I give students on their written work. I hope that by examining myself, and the way I communicate how students can improve their writing, I will become a better teacher. And as I seriously consider the feedback I receive, a better writer as well.