Sunday, September 30, 2012

We Know Why We Write...Now Why Do We Publish?

My incredibly dorky phone
Like a lot of people these days, I have a smart phone.  One of the many benefits to owning it is being able to check my email, Facebook, etc., any time of the day.  I can look up movie times, place a library hold, or post pictures of my kids doing crazy things in real time.  There's really only one drawback to owning a smart phone: I can check my email, Facebook, etc. ANY TIME OF THE DAY.  It's not usually an issue.  I'm not one of those obsessive Internet junkies who spends all my time trolling forums or creating memes.  I don't even have to check in with my apps, because they are all set to alert me if I get any incoming messages.  Convenient, right?  Except when I am waiting for an answer to a query.

Yesterday, I sent off my first submission in two years.  As a result, I have checked my email no less than fifty times.  Possibly more.  Which is kind of hilarious, considering I just posted about dealing with rejection two weeks ago.  The thing is, I'm not afraid of being rejected.  I've had rejections in the past, and I survived.  I think what I'm really afraid of is being accepted.  The thought of being published--and the expectations my family and friends would have of me after that--makes me shake in my boots.  (Okay, fine, slippers.)

I think there is a second factor causing me to eye my phone nervously once every ten minutes.  I have always said I'd never be able to write a) short stories and b) horror.  I am awful at limiting the plot of a story, and more times than not, my short story idea hits 40,000 words before I realize what's happening.  At that point I usually shrug and forge ahead.  It doesn't really matter if I'm writing a short story or novel.  As long as I'm enjoying it, I'm happy.

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The horror genre is another matter.  I've read my share of Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe.  I love Mary Shelley.  I own a couple of Clive Barker books and they are in my TBR pile.  I love classic horror or a well-written contemporary piece.  But something has happened in the last twenty or thirty years.  Cinema has grossly distorted the entire genre to be something akin to the snuff film.  You can't watch an R rated movie these days without encountering too much sex and not enough plot.  Glorified, goreified porn.  And maybe that's okay with some people, but that's not what horror is about for me.  Unfortunately, books have followed where Hollywood is leading, and I've given horror a wide berth for the last few years.

Then, at the beginning of the month, I had an idea.  I'm not going into it here because it is horror, after all, and isn't suitable for polite company.  Let's just say it was a persistent idea, and eventually I got to the point that I couldn't ignore it.  I sat down to write, and when I finished, I realized that this is the sort of horror story I want to read.  It just so happened that a local magazine was looking for stories for their Halloween edition, so I screwed up my courage and sent it in.

Which brings us up to the present.  The question pressing on me now is, "What do I do if they like it?  What if my family wants to read it?"  I think my dad would be fine.  He'd buy extra copies and force his co-workers to read it, too.  My mom, however, would probably be horrified.

Which is kind of the reaction I was going for, though I'd like to avoid that awkward conversation I'd be stuck having about "writing things my grandparents can't read."

I guess my real question this week isn't "Why do I want to write?"  It's more along the lines of, "Why do I want to publish?"  I thought I understood, but this panic over submitting has forced me to reevaluate the question.  While I work on that, let me ask you:

What's your reason for seeking publication?


  1. I totally get what you are feeling, Trisha! I've got a few fears of my own when it comes to getting published.

    Why do I want to get published? The main reason lately is so that I have something tangible other people can understand when I talk about writing. Of course there's the dream--I'd love to do well enough at writing to call it my job instead of my hobby.

    On the other hand, I dread having to defend the value choices I made both consciously and unconsciously while writing. Great post, Trisha!

    1. For some reason, my stories lately end up with a "message" hidden in them. If it was only strangers who came after me for the point of view I choose to represent, I wouldn't mind. But there are several topics I know I'd have to defend from family, and that is really overwhelming for me. I never even considered what values I'm imbuing my characters with unconsciously. I'll probably spend tomorrow evening checking into that! (At least it'll keep me busy, and hopefully away from my email.) Thanks, Melanie! :)

  2. I'd like someone to read what I write. If I had no interest in publication at all, I'd at least put my stories up on the internet under a pen name just to get some readers. I guess I feel if I go to all the trouble to write it, I might as well put it out there to see if anyone wants to read it.

    But the reason I'm pursuing publication (and working so hard on getting better) is that I'd like this to be my job. I really enjoy writing, and I'd love a job where I can work at home and still be there for my kids.

    I do think it would be weird to have random people that I know reading a book that I wrote. I keep my day to day life separate from my writing life. I'm not really sure how their opinions of me would be colored by what I write. I certainly don't write the most noblest of characters.

    Very thought provoking post.

    1. I think I keep coming back to the dream, too. I want to write, and I want to do it well enough to support my family. Or at least help out. At some point I'll have to let go of what my parents or grandparents (or sister/in-laws/husband/children) think of my stories and just put them out there.

      I love that you'd post your stories one way or the other. Very true to your passion, and I am so glad to hear someone say that. I've always been to scared to do that myself, ("Eek! People are reading my stories!") but I love to see people with the integrity and courage to follow their dream, no matter which way it leads. Thank you for sharing, MaryAnn!

      PS: Ignoble characters are not necessarily bad characters. They're usually the most interesting ones, don't you think?

  3. I have a full currently with an agent. I love the book. But I do think about my dad, my sons, and my friends reading it--hmm. It's not over-the-top, but it is real suffering and anguish. Okay, maybe getting a "yes" is more scary than getting a rejection.

    1. Congratulations for having a full out with an agent! I think I'd be going crazy if I were in your shoes. Do you find yourself checking for a response ten times a day, or are you pretty laid back about it? Either way, my fingers are crossed for you. I wish you the best of luck!

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  5. I hear you on the horror. I'm not sure I want people I know reading the stuff I come up with, and for that reason I'm not sure it's my genre.

    Sharing my writing is always a kind of validation. I don't need masses of people to read it, although I suppose that's technically the goal. But if one person says she related to something I wrote, or it sparked an emotion or a memory or an image for her, then that bit of communion makes me feel like maybe I'm not crazy after all :)

    1. This was my first foray into the horror genre as a writer, and while it was fun, it also gave me nightmares. (I can't look at strawberries without shuttering.) I'm glad I gave it a shot, though. Even if I don't choose to write another story like this in the future, I think understanding what I'm capable of will make me a better writer. Every book has conflict, and the conflicts in my stories are usually graphic in their own way. Horror certainly plays into that.

      Maybe writing horror is the groundwork for something even more amazing for you. Whatever the case, if your goal is to connect with your reader, I'm sure you'll find a way to do it. Whether you write horror or something else entirely.


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