Writers can be an egotistical lot. We write what we want to see written. We jot down the stories in our head that sound so irresistibly cool to us. We often (always?) think we’re writing the best damn thing ever.
Then we have to share it with other people – crit groups, family, friends, co-workers, you name it. Sometimes, that changes things.
In the case of publication, the most important person you share your work with is the editor. If they don’t like what you wrote, guess what? You don’t get published.
I was adding some weight to my rejection folder this week and went back to check out the submission. Sort of reading the tea leaves to try and figure out what went wrong. What happened mostly, was me not wanting to listen to the editor.
They wanted a mash-up with Lovecraft and a Fairy Tale with an apocalyptic twist – brilliant, I say. I’m a huge fan of Lovecraft’s beneath the surface approach to horror. (I maybe even took that a bit too literally, heh.) And turning a fairy tale into a twisted psychological mind-f**? How can that not be fun to write?
On the website there were several clues as to what the editor wanted. They gave a list of fairy tale mash-ups which they enjoyed or found successful. They also stated during the process that the stories that were being accepted were mostly of the strong on fairy tale type and not so much written in the Lovecraftian manner.
I, like most egotistical writers might do, ignored these indicators entirely.
The list of “successful” mash-ups was an incredible hint. It told you precisely what style they were looking for. In fact, none of these suggested taking “The Emperors New Clothes” and re-writing it as a Lovecraftian tale about a cult intent on using the President as a flesh-suit was going to work for this particular anthology. It was a bit, extreme perhaps, compared to their suggested list. But I was seeing dark in my mind’s eye. Original fairy tales were cautionary horror stories and with the psychological terror of Lovecraft to boot…well…
I wrote a piece steeped in the formal tones of Lovecraft and gave an off-handed sort of treatment to the Apocalypse theme. I wrote what I wanted. I enjoyed it, and guess what? Yep, they passed on it.
I suppose the catch is, I knew going into it that I was ignoring these requests. And I knew was putting up barriers to the story getting published. I think most times, I haven’t been nearly as aware of the fact I was shooting myself in the foot. So, I’m calling that progress, despite the rejection. It was damn fun to write too, and I’m very interested to see what types of stories they did end up going with.
All in all, yes we often write for ourselves and there is something to be said for not sacrificing your artistic vision. But unless you are just an undiscovered literary genius, you can’t always expect the uncompromising vision thing to get you that far. Most of the time, you need to keep in mind what other people (audience and editors alike), are looking to read.