--- Ernest Hemingway
"Write drunk, edit sober"
--- Ernest Hemingway
I revised my teenage zombie story, based on the excellent feedback in the Most Awesome Rejection Letter Ever, and resubmitted it to another magazine that also gave me an encouraging rejection letter two weeks ago. But now I'm staring at my next, half-completed story and I swear, I can't do anything. I feel like I'm stirring the words I've already written around with a stick, shuffling notes from one end of the document to the other. I'd probably better put it away and go do something else, before I poke a hole in it or something.
Yes, it's another rejection letter. But it's the most awesome rejection letter ever! It starts "The editors have read your story and after some deep discussion we have decided not to take it for publication" and then goes on for a big paragraph about the things they liked and didn't like about my story, and ends "In the end, we didn't think this was a fit for our publication, but we did enjoy reading it. I hope you'll consider sending us more of your work some time."
I think this is actually just as encouraging as an acceptance would have been. <fistpump>
Susan Morris always has good advice, but this one really resonates for me. What am I good at writing? What am I not good at writing? And did I shape my story around that knowledge?
Play to Your Strengths
Saladin Ahmed’s Salon article may be a seven-day wonder on social media sites, but it’s raised an interesting question. Is current fantasy writing too dependent on stereotypes? Are we using a shorthand developed by Tolkien, Lewis, and Moorcock as a shortcut to world-building?
Certainly, science fiction has its own tropes, and a bad space opera is just as derivative as a bad dungeon crawl. But one thing science fiction seems to be better at than fantasy is gender inclusion and, to a lesser extent, racial diversity. I think this is because a lot of us base our fantasy worlds, consciously or not, on actual historical locations and cultures. To what extent should this limit us?
After reading Saladin’s piece, I took a look at my current project and realized that while the parts I have set in the modern day are fairly racially diverse, the parts I have set in Fantasyland (which I had imagined as roughly commensurate with Northern Ireland) were not. At all.
I had already been aware of trying to include a diverse range of women characters in the book, which is probably something I see missing from a lot of fantasy because I’m a woman. But now I’m taking another look at my assumptions about my setting. Just because I’ve decided to base the geography, or the style of dress, or certain phrases of borrowed language on an existing culture doesn’t mean that I’m locked into every aspect of that existing culture for my fantasy setting. Why shouldn’t there be a diversity of races in Northern Ireland Derivative? The more I play with the idea of race (wouldn’t you be more inclined to trust someone who resembled a trusted friend or a dead lover?), the more I think that I’ve been unconsciously limiting myself.
I don’t have to play in Tolkien’s sandbox, or Martin’s. Identifying and questioning my own assumptions is the best way to find a world that’s truly my own.
I read. I write. And sometimes I talk about it.
(Issue #20 - free to read)
(Issue #14 - free to read)
(Issue #25 - free to read)
The Far Side of the World: