The Fictorians

The Ever-Elusive Audience

2 October 2014 | No Comments » | Gregory D. Little

I’m going to begin this post by telling you an ironic short story. It’s ironic because it’s about how I don’t really get short stories in a lot of ways. Bear with me and I’ll explain.

I never really wrote much in the way of short fiction prior to my first trip to Superstars Writing Seminar. The instructors there took great pains to impress upon us the importance of short fiction as a way to hone our craft, turn out many completed projects for submission in a short amount of time and as a way to build a reputation as an up-and-coming writing talent. I took their advice to heart and set about working on short stories whenever my work on novels lulled. I quickly learned that I had trouble with the “short” part of short fiction, and not always just in my own work. What most people would read and consider a complete work of short fiction I would read and think “I enjoyed that quite a bit, I just wish it had been longer so I could have felt a greater sense of immersion.”

The problem grew. I began cutting my own stories to a more submission-friendly length (not a lot of market beyond Writers of the Future for that 14,000 word novelette). Don’t get me wrong, many of my stories, most especially the early ones, were quite bloated and desperately needed to be cut. I’d hack them to pieces by half or more, and be quite satisfied with my butchery. Then the feedback would come in. “I liked the writing, but it was too long.” Ack! Talk about disheartening. So I hacked more, and I ended up with stories that got more and more positive feedback, many still in the process of doing so as they search for a home.

But despite the increase in market options and positive feedback, I no longer liked some of my stories as much. I had to set a new directive for myself: cut my stories until I felt they were too short. In general, the kind of short fiction I love is different than the kind of short fiction most other readers love.

The point of this story gets to the heart of perhaps my greatest fear as a writer. What if I never find my audience because I don’t write stuff that enough people like? What if, in a profession filled with odd types, I am just one degree too odd in my tastes? What if no one ever picks up a science fiction book that’s more political thriller than future tech? What if no one is interested in a YA fantasy which defies the customs-as-strong-as-laws of YA lit by being set entirely in a bizarre second world with no Earth present, dystopian or otherwise?

I tell myself I can be a trendsetter or someone whose work people could turn to when they want something different. But I also know how difficult a business this is to break into, how every element of a story that carves away a slice of readership makes it that much easier for a reader or editor to move on to the next book they are considering.

People often say to write what you know, which is impossible if you are writing fantasy and, to a certain extent, sci-fi. I think a better adage is “write what you love.” You’ll get a lot more done that way.

But what happens if you are the only one who loves it?

 

Fear and Loathing in the Writing Life

1 October 2014 | No Comments » | Leigh Galbreath

Welcome to October, everyone!

To fit the occasion, this being the month of fears, the Fictorians will be looking at the things that give us pause, make our hearts pound, or just plain give us grief.

That’s right, we’re looking at the darker side of the writing life.

As writing hobbiests, when our scribblings are just to feed that hungry monster in our souls that demands we create worlds all our own and put those worlds and the people that live in them on a page, we don’t have to deal with anything we don’t want to. We can live in our heads, playing with our characters to our hearts content, and be perfectly happy doing so.

It’s not until we decide to make a living off those worlds and characters that we run into trouble. After all, no job is perfect. They all have negatives. Writing is no different.

Actually, it might be a little worse.

In a normal job, we can say, “Hey, that’s not my responsibility.” Often, we can procrastinate, we can ask for help, or push whatever it is on to someone else. Or, we have to grin and bear it until we’re done, but hey…we’re getting a steady income that pays for shelter and food for our trouble.

Not so in the life of an aspiring author.

All of us in this business face things that we don’t particularly want to do or aren’t good at, especially those who take the self-publishing route. And in this day and age, going with a publishing house doesn’t mean you get to hide away in your underground bunker to type away and cackle like a mad genius.

Everything is our responsibility. We are self employed introverts, for the most part, so there are no coworkers to push the work on, or to help us, and procrastination just means it takes that much longer before we get the payoff. We always have to grin and bear it, not for a steady paycheck, but for the chance of an advance or royalty that could be steady, but for the most of us, not big enough to live on or balance out having to earn it.

Good thing we’re not in it for the money, right?

No, we’re in it for the love. Our love of words and worlds and characters. The hungry monster in our souls cares nothing for paltry trinkets and paychecks. But when they’re fed, we’re over the moon.

So, we deal because we get to feel that anticipation when inspiration strikes and we know we’re off to someplace new, that satisfaction of finishing something uniquely ours, that pride at inviting other people into our creations and knowing they enjoyed it there. At least, that’s why I do it. I don’t know about you.

So, this month, we and some of our friends, will be sharing stories about having to face the less enjoyable parts of being an author and how we’ve dealt with it, from fears of not finding an audience, to dealing with catastrophic book launches and writing induced injury.

We all have to face the fears of not being good enough, or the hassle of being our own promoters, or dealing with our own real life antagonists. So read on, my friends, commiserate with us, and join us as we conquer our writing fears and professional loathings.

September on Tap

30 September 2014 | No Comments » | Evan Braun

A month of stranger than fiction stories were promised… and, well, promised delivered! I’ve been friends and colleagues with the many writers of this blog for years, and yet I found myself consistently surprised, amused, and horrified by September’s crop of posts.

One of the dominant stereotypes about writers is that we’re all J.D. Salinger types, antisocial nerds who shut themselves up in their dark little basements and slowly grow pale from lack of direct sunlight. Okay, that might be overstating things somewhat. The point is that it couldn’t be further from the truth. In order to write resonant, exciting, and cathartic prose, you have to get out into the world and live. September was certainly a showcase for that.

In case you’ve missed any of our excellent posts this month, take a few minutes to browse what’s on offer.

Stranger than Fiction, by Nancy DiMauro.

Hair Popsicle, by Clancy Metzger.

The Self-Cleaning Dog, by Gregory D. Little.

What’s Up, Doc? by Kim May.

A Hangman’s Tale, by Karen Dudley.

The $80 Mission Bank Heist, by Jace Sanders.

The Thin Line Between Memoir and Realistic Fiction, by Kristin Luna.

The Longest Ten Minutes, by Evan Braun.

My Close Encounter, by Robert J. McCarter.

Based on a True Story, by Kevin Ikenberry.

The Strangest Part of Real Life Is that It Happens Every Day, by Matt Jones.

Life vs. Story, by Frank Morin.

Haunted Hospital, by Paul Genesse.

Texas Heart Shot, by Quincy Allen.

Hell in an Elevator, by Scott Eder.

Perfectly Harmless Lake Flies, by Gama Martinez.

From Plane to Progress, by Colette Black.

When Life Is Larger than Life, by Mary Pletsch.

In the Company of Giants, by Lou J. Berger.

Webbed Toes and Dream-Memories, by Nathan Barra.

Come on back tomorrow, as Leigh Galbreath begins a journey into our more angsty writerly psyches. For October, we’ll be tackling Fear and Loathing in the Writing Life.

Webbed Toes and Dream-Memories

29 September 2014 | 1 Comment » | Nathan Barra

I almost never remember my dreams. I am certain that I dream most nights, but at best, I retain only a vague synopsis or a phantasm of the feelings inspired. Despite this, I have one reoccurring dream that my mind holds onto despite my efforts to forget the morbid stillness of the tableau.

In the dreamspace, there exists only a room. The floor is covered in white tile that extends into an undefinable vagueness around the edges. At the center of the room is a sunken pool, a large square depressed into the ground about a foot. The tub is mostly filled with gently rippling water which reflects the glow of lighting that feels coldly institutional. The grout between the squares of ceramic are a pale brown-red where water had been splashed during a struggle. The water of the pool is pink with what I am certain is my blood.

I never understood why this image inspired dread upon awakening, until I mentioned the dream one day in passing to my mother. She had been washing dishes at the time, and stopped to listen as I talked. I remember the silence that followed my description, and the deep breath she took as she set the item she had been holding back into the sink. Turning to me, she told me that she had hoped I would not remember that place, but because I had, I needed to know.

You see, when I was almost 3 years old my parents had left me with the sitter they and many of the families in our neighborhood had been using for years. The woman ran a childcare service out of her home, and unknown to all the parents was over the capacity she had been legally licensed to care for. This fact came to light when one day I was loose in the kitchen while she was making Jell-O. With the infamous timing found in nightmares and fiction, I managed to get underfoot just as she lifted the steaming bowl from the counter to bring to the fridge to cool.

The burns on my little feet were horrific.

I was rushed to the hospital, where my parents met me. In a twist of luck also rarely found in the real world, one of Canada’s best plastic surgeons was in the receiving area of the ER as I was dragged in and decided to take my case.

Each day, my toes had to be cut free from each other and the wrappings the doctors had to use to keep them separated. Despite medications and the other treatments they used, necrosis had been unavoidable. To keep the infection under control, my dead skin had to be scraped off with a stiff bristled brush nearly daily. My mother, late in her pregnancy with my younger brother, had to hold me down as I screamed and thrashed so a nurse could do the gristly task in a shallow depressed pool in a white tiled room.

It was both brutal and necessary, but because of those chances and the choices of all involved, my feet eventually healed and grew normal and whole. Even so, my mother says that was the hardest thing she has ever done. She took a leave of absence from work to stay with me in the hospital and only left my side at night when my father took the vigil with me. After catching what sleep she could in the Ronald McDonald House next door, she would return to let my dad shower and go to work. That experience and kindness is why the Ronald McDonald House is one of my favorite charities.

I’ve often read stories where writers use dreams to have characters cope with traumatic events that occured in the buried past, but never believed that it happened in real life. After all, if the person wasn’t old enough to remember, how could the trauma reappear in dreams? How could it be so specific and real? I would have sworn that it wasn’t possible. Apparently, I was wrong.

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