Monday, May 11, 2009

Like a Shark with a Frickin' Laser Beam Attached to Its Head!

I've been mucking about with this writing thing for a couple of years now and I'm thinking maybe I'm getting a tad bit better at it. Perhaps…a tad…what, no comment from the peanut gallery?
Ahem, errr, so, as I continue to hone my craft and hopefully improve HOW I write, I'm beginning to wonder if I shouldn't be putting more thought into WHAT I write.
Historically the inspirations for my stories have come from rather mundane sources: A chocolate chip cookie. A tattered comic book cover. A discolored bit of sidewalk.
These don't strike me as the sorts of things that might inspire greatness. But then again, who am I to judge?
Actually, if I'm to be perfectly honest, I will have to admit that this line of thinking has been born out of my search for homes for my little orphan short stories. I don't know if any of you have been trying to place stories in speculative fiction markets lately, but editors can be so…persnickety.
One wants romance stories about left-handed dwarves, another buys only myopic, alternate histories featuring gender-bending anthropomorphized woodland creatures. On and on it goes. So picky.
I know if I keep on looking and sending em out, one day—like those poor creatures on the Isle of Misfit Toys—my stories will find a home. But as I begin to envision my next project I wonder… Do I? Dare I? Consider writing to a market? I mean, actually researching what a particular editor wants and attempting to focus in like a laser beam on that kind of story.
So, my question is this: is that selling out? Is that giving in to the man and relinquishing my artistic freedom—nay, RIGHT—to create my own stinkin' crap, versus stinkin' crap that someone told me they wanted me to write?
Or is that simply market-savvy writing that gets right down to business like a shark with a frickin' laser beam attached to its head?


PurpleClover said...

So you are looking for inspiration in the mundane...and some editors are actually telling you want you want???

C'mon! BE the shark! Write about the left-handed dwarves and gender-bending woodland creatures. I LOVE IT!

Yes, "Like a shark with a frickin' laser beam attached to its head!" Mr. Powers.

Bonnie said...

Well, do you *want* to write about any of those other things? I don't mean what you'd write in an ideal world, though that might be relevant, but do you look at any of those ideas and think, "I could write a story about that"?

If it makes you think, "Oh yuck," then it's not worth it.

Ms Kitty said...

Is finding a way to write what you love and get paid for it selling out?

No, not for me. I'm writing the stories that I love, just gearing them to fit a certain set of guidelines. Not always a perfect fit, but hey - I'm getting there.

I loved writing my novels - though they are not likely to see the light of day. But my WIP was written to sell from outline to first draft.

People are giving me the feedback that tells me I'm onto something with this one.

That's not selling out, that's success.

We all have choices to make. Some of the little ones add up to great things.

PurpleClover said...

Wait! I've got an idea. Title the book something like The Left-handed Leprechaun and Fox Get Into a Gender-Bender.

THEN proceeed to write the entire book however you want. They will be waiting to get to the really "interesting" part when they realize it has nothing to do with a Leprechan or a Fox but that they just read a really great story!

Ink said...

Lol, PC.


I'm with Bonnie on this one. I think it depends on whether you have any creative interest in what you're doing. So, if you pick an idea for a commercial reason, and it never becomes anything more... well, I'd probably have trouble doing that. But if you pick an idea and it starts to fascinate you, and you start getting involved with the characters and plot... well, that's the story taking over, as any good story should. I know people who write this way, and some who actually prefer it, as it provides a way to get started, a premise that might be captivating, that might get their creative juices going.

Only if your story never becomes more than a financial investment would it be "selling out". Which isn't exactly the end of the world, either. I mean, it's probably better to write stories you don't care much about than it is, say, to be cleaning sewer drains. Not the most artistically fulfilling, perhaps. But your freedom is in your choices. You get to choose whether you follow the market or not.

And as for how you get your ideas, well, whatever inspires you is a good thing. I'm all for cookies. The more chocoalte chips the better. A novel idea I'm currently playing around with came about entirely on account of how someone parked their car. Those eureka moments are odd little things.

Bookworm1605 said...

Ay, caramba! I do want to be the shark, PC! I've been a sea bass for so long, and ill tempered to boot!
Actually, strange as it may seem, I have no aversion to gender-bending woodland creatures or dwarves (although I'm suspicious of lefties). I think what intimidates me is the process. My technique is best described as organically snowballish. My stories spring unbidden from fertile ground, then barrel downhill, growing larger and larger with the accumulation of all manner of things—some good, some bad. The thought of trying to artificially channel that process is a little frightening. Doesn't mean it won't work. Doesn't even mean I won't like it. It's just a different thang for me.
And I think the phrase 'selling out' might have been a bit strong for what I intended, Bonnie and Ink. At this stage in my career, selling anything is a good thing. What I'd like to know is how many of you out there consciously alter the direction of your stories or even the style of your writing for the sake of particular markets or editors. I'm curious if you found it stifling, or freeing.

Ms Kitty said...

Writing is such a strange process.

It seems to me that the more 'orderly' my approach the better the story turns out. Guidelines are like the framework on a clay sculpture, they hold the work in place, but aren't the work itself.

So yes, writing for market is freeing to me. The work has a under-lying purpose.

Ink said...

Hmmmm... I'm not sure, really. I've changed stories on editor's suggestions, but that's a little different. I treat that like any other critique: if it resonates, and I think the story will be better for it, I take the comment and run with it.

But as for actually writing to a market... I'm not sure I've ever done that. But, at the same time, I don't really see a problem with it. I know it can help to follow mags that do theme issues, and when they announce their next theme in advance the writer can then write a story with the focus on that idea. I guess it comes down to whether you can get creatively inspired that way. It's not much more than a writing prompt, really. Can that idea spur something interesting in you? Does a story and character emerge and take shape?

Probably pretty dependent on the writer, I guess. I'm guessing I could do it, if I wanted... and maybe it would help with sales. But at the same time I'm pretty happy just writing what I want to write and seeing where it will take me. You know, inside the heads of weirdly menacing squids. (Yes, I have joined your WM genre crusade...)

Bookworm1605 said...

I like that analogy, Ms K.

And welcome to the movement, Ink. Your 'SLAVERING GHOULS R US' membership card is in the mail.