Saturday, April 30, 2011

Some Advice From Dean Koontz

For my regular viewers, I won't recap the whole "this is what's happening to me as a writer" thing.  But, for the occasional viewers or just for refresher's sake, this is how it's played out:

- 2005:  received synopsis request from acquisitions editor of midlist publisher.  Rejected with: "Good story, but we're looking for outstanding." 

- 2006: shelved failed novel, started submitting short stories that got rejected, landed  book review gig for local rag not much bigger than Pennysaver, saw 1st "short" story published - a novelette of 10,000 words - which won the $100 Editor's Choice prize, but in retrospect, it's an "okay" story.   Landed paid freelance column with The Press & Sun Bulletin.

- 2007-2008: Had several "not-so-good" stories published in anthologies no one will ever read, but learned to avoid 4thluv and royalty anthologies like the plague.  "Sold" four more "okay" stories to respectable semi-pro anthologies.   Sold four nonfiction stories to major publishers, discovered that market pays well, also those stories keep mother-in-law and wife happy.  Landed Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, began writing reviews for Shroud Magazine.

-2009 - 2010:  attended Borderlands Press Writers Bootcamp two years consecutively.  Discovered I was a pretty sucky writer.  This caused several massive rewrites of Hiram, which also made layout editor Danny Evarts want to help me commit sepeku with my pen. 

Sold three more nonfiction stories, which made mother-in-law and wife even happier. Really slow year for short fiction.  Lots of rejections.  Placed one story at the end of the year.  Left Press & Sun Bulletin. Became Review Editor of Shroud Magazine.  Edited The Terror of Miskatonic Falls and Shroud #10, the Halloween Issue.

2011 - Received several Stoker recommendations for Hiram, which tickled me to no end, even though it wasn't nominated. Stepped back from Review Editor for Shroud.  Lots more short story rejections.  Received several of my first ever pro-rate solicitations, though still waiting for word on one finished story and go-ahead for another.  Received several other solicitations, and then.....

BREAK.

I stopped.

Looked around.

Decided this wasn't where I wanted to be.  That I needed to grow as a writer.  That I only wanted to write what was in my heart.

So I turned down said solicitations.  Decided to leave off writing short stories unless story idea was so strong it wouldn't let me sleep.  Dismantled and re-wrote my current novel.  Sold a story to my biggest market yet, and ended up writing a pretty darn good story for my first crack at a pro-rate anthology.  

And plunged headlong into reading.  Reading, reading, reading. In fact, I'm reading MORE than I'm writing right now, and I can't believe it didn't do this sooner....

Because it's like I'm back at school.  And the professors are Charles Grant, T. M. Wright, Stuart David Schiff, F. Paul Wilson, Ramsey Campbell, Manley Wade Wellman...

So you're thinking, "Wait.  Didn't this blog title say: Some Advice from Dean Koontz? Where is it, already?"

Two things.  Currently reading Dean's short story collection (can you believe I didn't realize he wrote short stories?  It's astounding, my ignorance) Strange Highways.  In the afterword, I came across these two snippets, the first simply reaffirming this whole "WOA! Let's put on the brakes" approach I've applied to short story writing:

"If a writer isn't having fun when he's working, the stories he produces are never going to be a pleasure to read."

Translation: write what comes from the heart, and that only.  Because only those stories are going to sell.

Two:  Despite this, DON'T be afraid of writing short stories.  Disregard market.  Disregard advice telling folks to focus on novels.  Write what must be written, and that's all. 

Sorry it's not more earth-shattering than that.  But for me....exactly what I needed to hear.