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Good Rejections

November 16, 2010

Today I receive a wonderful rejection.  It’s always nice to get a personal, positive rejection.  It’s like hitting on  girl (when I was single, long ago) and having her say “you’re sweet and I’d love to go out with you, but I’ve got a boyfriend and we’re pretty serious.  I wish I’d met you three months ago.”  At leas I think it would be similar to that.  I usually got the cold shoulder of hysterical laughter as responses.

This email started by saying the story did not fit the anthology as well as other stories, hence the rejection.  Then it went on to say the story (TWHDotGMP) was “very, very funny” — calling part of it “brilliant” — and said nice things about enjoying my style, ending with an invitation to end more for the next antho.  Happy ego.

Alas, I don’t use that story’s in-your-face comedic style very often.  I will definitely explore it further in the future.  But gosh it’s tough to write humor.  Time consuming.  Only about 10% of my jokes are ever funny, so I need to write ten times as much to get each funny moment.  And TWHDotGMP is wall-to-wall (attempts at) humor, be it snappy dialog, absurd situations, or rimshot jokes, I packed it.  Exhausting to write so it can be perpetually amusing to read.  And then I had to push a plot in, too.

It’s a dangerous thing, writing humor.  I have a very odd sense of humor.  My target audience would also be people with odd senses of humor, but odd has a lot of directions to choose from.  Funny is subjective.  On the up side, no single rejection of a humor story should cause concern about the story’s market chances.  On the down side, this editor’s kind commentary is no guarantee that any other person (let alone editor) in the world will appreciate my razor wit.

I believe the market for SF humor is wide open.  Start naming some sci-fi funnymen.  Adams, Pratchett, Piers Anthony…I’ve received recommendations for others that I can’t recall.  I’m not just talking about stories with funny moments, I mean stories designed to be funny above all else.  There is a niche market for that and I could strive to establish myself there.  But then there’s my WotF story.  Are there any funny moments in it?  Maybe a snarky comment or two (I can’t think of any), but not really.  It’s got rape, drugs, incest, lying…no jokes.  So maybe I’m spreading myself thin by trying to write the funny and the serious.  Or maybe I’m covering all my bases.  Or maybe I’m just writing what I need to write and to hell with anyone’s opinion.  Or maybe I just haven’t found myself as a writer yet.  Or maybe I just like starting sentences with the word or.  (Ooh, I started and ended that one.)

I haven’t been able to count on sales to point me toward my niche.  What have I sold?  My two biggest earners were both fairly serious outerspace stories — one on a colony with aliens, the other on a fueling outpost near a colony.  “Excuse Me” was farcical humor, “Faerie Belches” was a lot less funny than the title implies (kind of an urban fantasy for kids), “Leech Run” was new space opera (of the Firefly vein), and flashes really are their own beasts altogether.  Oh, and a violent military vampire thing.  And time travel, serious but Twilight Zone-esque.  See, all over the place.  And my submission catalog isn’t much more focused.

So I guess I’ll keep exploring myself as a writer.  Some funny, some serious, some light, some dark…hopefully some sales.  Maybe I’ll find a career somewhere in there.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 16, 2010 5:39 pm

    Write what you like. 🙂 If there’s no reason to pick one vein of writing or the other, then just go with what you feel like at the moment. I think humor is much harder, but that might just be because I can’t write it.

  2. Clint permalink
    November 17, 2010 1:24 am

    Grats on the good rejection, man. I wish we could workshop stories together, but I know I’m not in your league these days and you’re super busy. I’ve learned a lot since the last time we tried that on the OWW (I know you have as well), and I’d love a shot at it. Let me know if you find the time in your hectic life as dad/teacher/writer to do something like that. I’ll make the time as well!

    Cheers,
    Clint-

    p.s. remember there’s not much time to get stories ready for Clarion next year!

  3. November 17, 2010 10:45 pm

    Popping in to say hi! I got a rejection yesterday, too, which is better than no stories out, I say. This is an improvement over pre-Clarion West life, for sure.

    I understand where you’re coming from with genre/thematic considerations. No one wants to get pigeon-holed until they’ve really located the best niche.

    Laurie’s right, humor is tough! I’m not sure I could do it at all.

  4. November 18, 2010 6:58 am

    Yeah, I can’t do humor much at all either, though sometimes unintentionally I guess I do (heh).

    As someone who has been writing not only stories that are all over the place, but stuff in multiple genres lately, I might be biased here, but I’m not sure you need a niche. Write what you want to write. I figure that for every writer there are themes and topics we want to explore and will probably find ourselves returning to over and over in our work.

    Of course, I hear my old horseback riding trainer’s voice in my head constantly saying “a great rider should be able to get on any horse”. This has always stuck with me. In many ways I feel that a great fiction writer should be able to tell great stories, no matter what kind they are. Besides, challenging ourselves to write outside of comfort zones is a good way to learn where our strengths and weaknesses are and to find new ways to learn and grow.

    Speaking of Clarion… (because some comments mentioned it), are you applying this year? I’m still debating (funding is a huge issues, time a second issue).

    • Scott W. Baker permalink*
      November 18, 2010 8:48 am

      @izanobu: That’s a negative. I’ve done the WotF workshop. I’ll ride that for notoriety for a while, trying to apply my learnings in the mean time. Time to start learning-by-doing rather than learning-by-learning. Besides, I’m supposed to be focusing on novels for a while, not short stories.

      There’s a tiny part of me that wants to apply and not go, just to see if I could make it this time. A bigger part of me wants to apply and actually go. The biggest part of me wants to stay with my family and write a novel and make “lots” of money when I sell said novel.

      My Clarion time has passed. If my career goes nowhere, maybe I’ll consider it again in five years or so.

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