While talking to my friend, Dameion, recently, we came to the conclusion that, as writers, there is something that we should always do or be or make sure happens, in the event that one or both of us become popular, if not famous writers.
What is it, you ask? Oh, you didn't ask? Really? Well, go ahead and ask. I can wait.
Okay, much better.
In order to get a following of any sort, a story must be entertaining. But, that's not the thing we should make sure and do; however, it is a major component of getting that following that all writers want, which leads to the thing we should always do. We are told to follow this rule and that rule and these rules over here and what this person says is gold and we should listen to them. It's aggravating, to be honest. However, even if a person follows all the rules, it doesn't mean the story is great. It just means you have a well-written piece. There is a significant difference between a well-written story and an . . . entertaining one. If a story doesn't entertain the reader, it really doesn't matter how well it is written—it won't keep the reader's interest and, thus, won't get read all the way through.
I put this in here because it was one of the things we discussed at length. We also noted that everyone, including editors, have their favorite types of stories and, though one publication may reject your work, there are others out there who may accept it. Again, it goes back to entertainment, back to keeping the reader reading.
Entertainment: Vital to the success of a writer. I think we writers should take on a new motto: How may I entertain you? And no, I don't mean going the route of a brothel or a street corner hooker. I mean just what it says: as writers, how can we entertain you, the readers? What do you want to see? Yes, I know you want originality, but beyond that, what intrigues you? What do you like to read? What do you dislike? In order to entertain you, we the writers, need to know what you, the readers, like.
Notice, I didn't ask this question of the editors? I did this on purpose. Yes, I know editors are an important piece of the submission pie, and what they like is very important. Editors, like writers, are readers first. However, editors have seen just about everything out there so they tend to be a little more jaded and writing fresh material is sometimes impossible. Unless . . . we know what you readers like.
If we are able to entertain you, then we develop somewhat of a following. I found out, recently, that I have a fan. Yes, just one, but one can lead to two, two to four, four to eight and, as you can see, there is a progression. Having a fan has made me realize that there is a great amount of pressure that comes with someone liking your work. What if something gets published that she doesn't like? What if it takes a few months to get something else published and there is nothing new out there on the market for her to read? More so, what if I stop entertaining this individual? Well, there goes the fan club. Knowing there is someone out there who enjoys my work, other than myself, that is, makes me strive harder to continue trying to get published and trying to entertain everyone. And, if not everyone, I want to continue pleasing the individual who enjoys my work.
With entertainment, hopefully, comes a little bit of popularity. What happens a lot of times when folks become popular or famous? Well, their head swells and hats no longer fit the way they used to. The ego comes to life. Not in everyone, mind you, but in plenty of folks. What happens then? The author becomes less accessible to the readers. And that brings us to the answer of the question. Dear readers what we must make sure to do and always remain to you is: be accessible. Not only should we remain accessible, but our stories should remain accessible as well.
A lot of people love Stephen King. I, myself, am a huge fan of his. Oh yes, even some of you writers out there secretly love him, too, even if you won't admit it. One of the reasons King is so loved is that he is accessible. Maybe not in the, hey let's call Stephen up and chat for an hour kind of way, but in a he's always out there kind of way. Also, his stories are accessible. I don't mean you can go to any bookstore out there and buy one of his novels. I mean that his stories are relatable and the every day person can say about any given character, ‘man, this guy sounds like me.’ People relate to his stories because, for the most part, his characters are every day people with every day problems in any small town around the world—just like, well, everyone else.
Go ahead say I'm wrong. Go ahead. I can wait. Oh, you have to think about this, don't you? Go ahead; ponder on as I finish up. . .
My goal, as a writer, is to entertain you. I may not be the most technically sound author out there—I've never taken any classes on writing outside of public schooling—and I may not have the big name or the backing that others have. And, I am notoriously shy about promoting myself—it all feels like bragging to me. However, I will do my best to entertain you. If, by some stroke of luck, I get somewhere in this business, I plan on staying accessible.
But, wait. There's more. Accessibility includes something else: For me, a lot of non-paying publications have helped me get my name out there. Granted, some of them have published mostly reprints, but I still send non-paying markets stories (especially if they take reprints). I feel like these ‘for the love markets’ are huge stepping-stones for writers and without them, many of us wouldn't have a chance, myself included. So, what do I do if I make a name for myself? I make sure and not forget those markets that helped me along the way.
Yeah, I know, I can make a lot of money selling REPRINTS if I make it in the writing world. But, I honestly feel like part of the reason the horror market has gone south and lots of publications have shut down is simply because once people start making it, they stop paying attention to the nonpaying or low paying markets, which, at one time, were the only places that would accept no name writers.
It’s about accessibility. It’s about remembering what got you there. It’s about entertainment. I think if you can do all three of those, then you will have some sort of success in writing.
As a writer, we put ourselves out there, we write and we bust our butts revising and submitting, getting rejected, revising, submitting again and again and again. There are those times when we want it to be all about us. Understand something: It is NEVER about us. Ever. Period. End of discussion. E.T., don’t bother calling home. Once it becomes about us and not the story and the readers we let ego get in the way and, as we’ve seen with several good writers, the quality of work goes down and so does the fan base.
I’m done rambling, for the most part, but remember: Entertainment. Accessibility. Remember where you came from.
A few things of pimpage and I am done for the night.
Have you heard of Grey Sparrow Journal? It’s literary, I know, but the folks that run it are great people. Diane Smith, Dean Lawson, Sue Haigh are all talented individuals and really nice. I know I’m not big on literary markets, but if I hit one, it’s going to be Grey Sparrow Journal. The publication is beautiful, the poetry is magnificent and the stories are great.
Check them out at: Grey Sparrow Journal
Last week when I posted my blog I left off a publication. Check out Dark and Dreary Magazine and my story “These Eyes.”
These Eyes at Dark and Dreary Magazine
Here is another cool site, but not so much for the fiction, though there is good fiction there, but for what it is about. Patchwork Project is about exposing domestic abuse, bringing it more into the light and making folks more aware about the different types of abuse out there. Douglas Churchill started this last Halloween and its year anniversary is drawing near. Go check it out, drop Doug a line. If you have stories that do NOT glorify abuse but is about that particular subject, drop him a story as well. No, it’s not paying, but it’s for a worthy cause.
The Patchwork Project
Don’t forget about SNM Horror Magazine. My story ‘Apartment 306’ is up for the month of October.
Apartment 306 at SNM Horror Magazine
Also, currently playing at The Monsters Next Door is my story ‘Release.’ It’s not for the squeamish, but I promise, it is tactful.
Release at The Monsters Next Door
Also, showing at the House of Horror are various stories in issues 1-4. Just click on the covers of each issue and read through the stories in the various rooms.
House of Horror
Thank you all for reading. Feel free to leave comments. I don’t bite all the time. Just some of the time.
I’m AJ and I’m out.