Sunday, March 4, 2012
Reading And Writing.
I recently read an anthology of short stories from a (very) small press. There was nothing startling about the collection. One story stood out as excellent, a couple I thought were merely OK, while the rest were, in my opinion, quite below standard.
It so happens that I've seen the author of one of those 'below standard' pieces online - bragging about the sale and obviously very proud. And I have absolutely no problem with that. It's a little unfortunate that in their naivety they haven't recognised the level at which they have been published. I did, however, have a chuckle when the writer started suggesting the story was truly original, completely brilliant and was even talking about major awards.
It was simply obvious to me that the writer hadn't read much SF.
While the writing was fairly uninspired and flat, the real problem was the story was one that I've read many times before. And I picked the ending in the first paragraph or so.
It's important for a writer to know the history of their genre. And to keep up to date.
When I submitted one of my first stories (So Sad, The Lighthouse Keeper) to a well known small press, the editor told me that I'd obviously read a lot and all that reading had paid off. He told me that it showed in the confident and calm manner of the writing and the descriptive prose. He then advised me that the story wasn't done yet, rejected it and broke my heart.
And damn his eyes, he was right. It needed more work.
I try to keep my reading broad. I read a lot of non-fiction, not just science but historical, biographical, travel - anything that takes my interest. Fiction-wise, I read almost anything - stories of all genres and all lengths. I regularly read Asimov's, Andromeda, Analog, and a couple of others. I can even tell you the differences between the purchasing tastes of Sheila Williams, Gordon Van Gelder and Stanley Schmidt.
And don't forget local small press. I read what I can from the markets I sub to. I try to ensure I know what Ticonderoga, Fablecroft and Twelfth Planet are publishing.
After all, if I plan to sell to these markets, I must know what they're buying.