Poetry Fishbowl today
's journal. (Instructions/explanation at the link.) She does these regularly, and I think it's a fabulous idea and keep meaning to link to them, but I am so sucktastically erratic about reading my LJ friendslist that I don't usually notice one is going on 'til it's over. Also, the theme this time is Hart's Farm
(scroll down to the description), which is a setting of hers that I really like.
Meanwhile, I have been learning a metric shit ton of stuff about writing lately. It's interesting to have been doing this as long as I have been (technically speaking), and still feel like I am at the bottom of the learning curve. But one of the things I've been learning about lately is finding my own voice. There have always been things I've written that I have connected to very strongly, and things that I haven't, and I think I'm starting to figure out the difference between them.
My natural tendency as a writer, generally speaking, is to focus on "up" beats rather than "down" beats -- I do
write dark, unhappy stuff, and I kill characters and so forth, but I would say that my general view of the world and of human nature is pretty optimistic, and this is reflected in my fiction. I've spent a lot of time in the last couple of years, however, writing short stories and trying to sell them to various SF markets, and attempting to match the general style of the markets I'm submitting to, which in most cases means that I'm trying to write dark, dystopic stories with unhappy endings. And I've been realizing lately that no wonder
those stories weren't selling -- either I didn't really enjoy writing them, or else I had to fight my natural tendency towards happy(ish) endings in order to end on a "down" beat, and of course
that is going to make the finished product feel stilted and formulaic.
It sometimes feels that there is not much of a market out there for the kind of stuff that I tend to write, but that doesn't mean changing what I write; it means finding the markets that fit my type of story (which was what I did - successfully! - with Sword & Sorceress
) rather than changing my style to fit the markets. Which is basic Writing Theory 101, but it seems like it never helped to be told
that; I had to figure it out for myself via a lot of unsuccessfully laboring on incredibly depressing stories that never went anywhere.
(It probably says a lot that I have never had this problem with fanfic at all, and usually not so much with self-published stuff, either. it's only when I specifically aim to write stuff for publication that I end up in a self-conscious zone where I'm trying to guide my work to a specific stylistic goal, and usually failing. It's not just
self-conscious striving for publication - it's also trying out stylistic experiments that don't work, which is what some of Raven's Children
is - but the point, I guess, is that I'm finding myself doing it more naturally and less self-consciously as I learn to relax and settle into celebrating my own strengths as a writer rather than trying to fight them.)
I've been trying my hand at some romance lately, which has never entirely been my cup of tea, but one of the reasons why I thought it might be a fun way for me to write something salable is because romance is all about
the happy ending. Ironically that is one of the big reasons why it often isn't my cup of tea, because I prefer my happy endings uncertain (snatched from the jaws of defeat!) and dislike knowing from the beginning that things will work out for the characters. On the other hand, I have
read romance that I liked, and the process of figuring out the aspects that made me like it, and then attempting to translate that into my own writing, has been really interesting.
Edited to add, because I'm still thinking about this: I remember commenting as far back as 2003/2004 that Kismet, which was my "play place" - a dumping ground for ideas that I considered too bizarre, silly or cliche to burden my "serious" novels with - was getting a great audience response and was so fun to work on that, unlike RC, I never got tired of it and couldn't really see myself getting tired of it. But I don't think I had ever carried it through to the conclusion I've come to now: that what made Kismet fun to read and to write was that it was closer to my natural "voice" than anything else I was writing at the time, and that was a style worth pursuing.
Edited yet again: To add another link! I knew there was something else I wanted to link here. The SF/fantasy webzine Crossed Genres is trying to raise the funds at Kickstarter to pay their authors pro rates
. (If you visit the page, there is more info - you'll notice they've already met their first goal, but since that went smoothly, now they're aiming for a second, higher goal that requires significantly more funding.) It would be great to have another pro SF market out there, especially since my general experience with them has been that they're great to work with!