Friday, April 11, 2008

Why Not This One?
AJ Brown

Over the last few days I have done something I have never done before. What you ask? Base jump? Parachute? Sky diving? Nah. None of those. I have sat down at the computer and tried to write a story for an anthology I would like to get in. What’s that you say? Haven’t I written for a specific anthology before?

Well, yes, but not for this one. It’s one that I never really had the confidence in my ability to write for. Yes, I have submitted to this place in the past (and no, I am not telling where it is) and I have been rejected, but it’s not like I actually sat down and wrote a story for this publication. The stories I had submitted in the past had been previously written, so I didn’t write them with the publication specifically in mind.

I tried for two days to come up with a story worthy enough to be considered. My mind shut down. I couldn’t come up with anything. For me that is unheard of. Mr. Fountain of Creativity had nothing.

I was worried at first.

Then I sat down yesterday morning for a short while and pounded out the first line to the story. I pondered it, played with it in my head, looked at it, turned the words around. Then it happened. The story took shape and I wrote. Words came together; sentences formed; a plot and ending became a little clearer.

When I finished the piece this afternoon I asked six or so of my friends to read it. I also asked questions about the story. I have gotten replies back from most of them but one of them said something that made me think. And, really the words weren’t all that profound, but they held a deeper meaning for me.

My opinions, hope they are okay.

This made me sit back and think. Thus my reply is as follows:

Thanks (name withheld to protect the guilty)--the readers’ opinions are the ones that mean the most to me. Editors are paid to tear your stuff apart. Readers are who I want to impress with this one.

With this one? With this one?

Hello, AJ, did you catch what you wrote?

With this one?

Why only this one? Why not EVERY story I write?

Here is what I am getting at folks: As writers most of us want to get published. Often times we write stories that we think the editors or publishers would like. But, what about the readers? What if a reader likes a story that an editor wouldn’t? What if a reader thinks something is awesome and a publisher doesn’t? Does that make the story any less good in the reader’s eye?

I don’t think so.

This is the thing I had forgotten through all of this learning how to write and trying to pen stories that I think an editor may like and want to publish. I, like so many of us, have forgotten about the reader.

Sure, we say if you write a compelling story and you do it well, then someone will pick it up and pay you for it. But, why only write to please an editor, one who may be fickle on what he/she likes?

We must focus on who we are trying to impress and that, in my opinion, should be the reader.

My good friend, Petra, told me something last year that I have kept in mind every time I read someone else’s work. She said, “We are readers before we are writers.”

So, why forget the readers that we are trying to reach? Why not write for them; write with them in mind?

I think to an extent we all write with a little bit of the reader in mind, but how much do we do that? How often do you sit back and say ‘I wonder if Joe Blow down the street would like this story.’

Just a thought and a rambling.

For now, I’m AJ and I’m out.

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