Since my last post, a couple of things happened. I’ve written five chapters of my novel. I’m doing my level best to turn my ideas, vocabulary, and writing know-how into some serious story-crack. With that in mind, I send each chapter to my wife so she can read it. She’s not much into fantasy tales, so if she’s wanting to turn pages then I know I got something decent. Besides, it’s nice to have her point out any possible inconsistencies.
I also got hit with a triple dose of rejection… all on the same day. Then my hard drive failed and I had to do all sorts of crazy IT stuff to make sure all the latest changes to my novel and stories were intact. It was a bad turn for the home team.
About a month or two ago I came to a realization… I write contentious material. A lot. Some of my stuff is the usual character-driven fiction, but more often that not I’m doing something that’s not widely practiced. Like subverting well loved tropes. Or poking at religion. Or letting the plot drive the story.
Maybe it’s because I’m working on the novel now, which is new territory for me and I’m finding a larger degree of freedom in it. Maybe I just learn lessons the hard way and I finally read MZB’s article enough times for it to actually sink in. But today I had an epiphany.
I’m writing wrong.
I’m not saying that I’m writing bad. I have some pretty kick-ass stories. But it’s not about kick-ass stories or cool plots. It’s about business. Editors buy stories because it’s their business to, not because the story’s kick-ass. Ultimately, they want people to subscribe and/or donate to their publication. Doing that means consistently giving the readers what they want, which is usually in the same general ball park with the stories that were in the issue last time. And the time before that… and the time before that.
So, as I read MZB’s familiar article again, this time I started thinking about all the places I’ve shopped things at and all the things I’ve ever seen them print and the light bulb went off. My goal to be a SFWA pro is still legit. It’s too legit. It’s too legit to quit. I’d like to shop this book around with SFWA pro as a credit. So I said to myself, “why am I working so hard? I’m writing stuff that people usually don’t see, so when the editors see it, how are they supposed to get that warm fuzzy that this material is bankable?”
I’ve decided to take the Mike Zulu Bravo challenge. By simply following the guidelines put forth by the late, great Marion Zimmer Bradley and looking at the past issues of accessible pro magazines, I will attempt to craft at least three stories that will get accepted at pro rates. I will silence the writer in me that’s screaming “you’ve seen this before” and “there’s nothing new to explore here.” It’s not about breaking new ground… it’s about serving comfort food.
Yes friends. I’m selling out. Just for a little while. It may take a minute for results to come back, as I don’t see myself writing any short stories unless I need a break to think more on my novel. But I’m definitely doing it. I’m curious to see if it works. And it’s just business, after all. Flavor Flav put it best: they gots to pay me, boy!