Writers, we’re special, we’re creative, artistic, we tap into the hum of the world that ordinary folk don’t. Hmm? We are struck by ideas, by the muse. We struggle and strain to manifest our gorgeous ideas into words that will astound, entertain, move. We’re reaching for something and sometimes we get there and we send out a story or novel that strikes a chord, is published, enjoyed, rated. At other times we leave stories along the highway of our writing journey, discarded, littering
But that’s just it, sometimes we say the thing and it sounds right, feels right. But get ten people to read it and it might only hit home with one or two. Does it mean that our writing has only limited appeal or is it that it has proportional appeal to similar minded individuals that enjoy the kind of work we produce?
I’m assuming a certain level of quality here, a level the writer has reached where we’ve learned to uncover the grain of truth in cliché without letting the reader know we are doing it. Where we invent the juxtapositions of language, says things differently, are technically competent or have through thousands of hours of practice becoming intrinsically expert at writing without having to think too much about it.
The world is full of opinions and trends, many of them conflicting. Just some of the ideas I’ve heard lately is that flash fiction is a new and exciting genre with the punch of short stories and the fluidity of poetry or, opposingly that flash fiction is not something distinct, it’s just a writing exercise. Some people like reality TV, others the opera, we can’t cater for everyone.
Writers, we’re often subbing. We read the journals and the submission criteria but it’s often not possible to be sure whether our piece will hit the spot for the particular editor or judge. We all have different backgrounds and personalities and sometimes a piece of writing that makes absolute sense to us, will mean nothing to someone else, something that seems innovative and striking to one will be inaccessible and contrived to another. In entering competitions I’m often confused as to what to send in but it’s not always possible to hit on the right answer because of the subjective nature of reading and enjoying various elucidations on life.
I’m subbing a literary novel at the moment. Having finished writing it just a short time ago it’s hard to see whether it’s a solid novel or perhaps is flawed in some fundamental way (of course not!). But I’ve had readers who absolutely got it and loved it, readers who got most of it or preferred one storyline because they identified more with that than the other. We can see that even when a novel is published it may have many different critiques or even if we really like a book, we might still find an element that disappoints or didn’t quite do what we wanted it to do.
I’m also preparing to self-publish (sometime in May) my space/sci-fi comedy book Housewife with a Half-Life under the name A.B.Wells. It’s been out to some publishers who liked some aspects but not so much others, or who couldn’t quite place it in a genre that they were interested in working in. However I know the book has appeal, (and an extremely endearing protagonist, Fairly Dave) and that there are a lot of readers, both men and women, out there who love humour, science, psychology, surreal comedy, geek stuff, Dr. Who, the great themes of life and the meaning of life who will find something to enjoy in the book.
We first need to do all the things we’re supposed to do when getting your work out there: careful research of agents, publishers, journals etc, be professional and produce high quality, beta read, proofread material.
When we have done all that, I think it’s really important to stop fretting and second guessing and adjusting our material (although be open to feedback and editing once a piece is accepted). We need to stop feeling so much angst about whether we are writing the right stuff for the times, or whether we are good enough to submit. Submit and then move on. Keep writing, write every day you can, write something, improve it, move on, write new things, be new with words and ideas and all the ways that fiction and the way we tell ourselves stories is changing. Get words out into the world and keep going, keep writing more and more again and be hopeful, always, rate yourself, be brave.