The Problem of Writing for a Specific Market

I haven’t finished reading anything of note this week, so for Fridays are for Fiction, I’m going to talk as a fiction writer, as opposed to a reader. I received my first official rejection this month. I wasn’t delighted; but I also wasn’t surprised. The piece I submitted was good, but I struggled a lot with the ending. I felt like a pilot circling the runway short on fuel; at a certain point, you just need to put that sucker down.

Apparently, I failed to stick the landing. I pretty much knew when I submitted it that the ending was the weakest part of the story.  So in the end, I decided to be encouraged because first, everyone gets rejected. Now my first one is behind me. Time to start writing, and racking up more.

Also, I’m encouraged because this particular small press impressed me more with their rejection than they might have if they’d accepted the piece. They responded in a when they said they would, gave a clear, if brief, reason for rejecting it, and encouraged me to keep submitting.  That tells me that they run their small press in a businesslike fashion (responding when they say they will), that they have a quality bar they’re willing to stick to, and that they are interested enough in my writing to want to work with me, when I send something above that quality bar.

I had a good talk with Chris after the rejection. He’s an excellent sounding board. My first experience of submitting a fiction query was awesome. Getting accepted, and more importantly, completing the work by my deadline, was exactly what I needed to build my confidence that I can finish a long fiction work. The feedback I got from my beta readers told me that the quality of my writing really is good. But this summer I realized I need to stop writing pieces specifically for particular calls for submission.

Yes, the ending was weak, but the bigger problem is that I was trying too darn hard with my rejected piece. It wasn’t a story I was that excited about telling. It was a genre that I had never tried, in fact I haven’t really even read much in this particular genre. While I was interested in trying something totally unfamiliar, the challenge wasn’t as much fun as writing a story that’s really captured me.

In my previous job, I did a lot of assignment writing. I learned how to write a really good blog post or a page of web copy on a subject I didn’t personally find fascinating. To tap into my natural curiosity and focus on enjoying the craft part of the writing to certain parameters.  I have an unfortunate proclivity for swimming upstream, even when my goal is actually downstream. I tend to mistrust things that aren’t miserably difficult. As a result, I often end up ruining things I love by turning them into hard labor. There’s a spiritual lesson in there somewhere, but I’m probably too hard-headed to get it at the moment.

I’m going to back off the idea of publishing for a bit, and refocus on writing. I need to get the creative fires stoked up for a while, and think a lot less about the marketplace (although I plan to keep quietly studying it, as well).

Since I do, in fact, have a book coming out next February.

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