Love it or Hate it?

I think I wrote Climb No Mountains about a year ago. At the time, I only had a couple of finished short stories. One was crap from way back (when I was still in CA!) that heralds the beginning of my horror/weird surrealist obsession. The others were the 11,000 word New Name and the dystopian-weird Hidden Fire. All of them were generally of the same vein. I’d pretty much found my style.

I gave Climb to a couple of my first readers. The responses were…not favorable. I honestly wasn’t all that surprised. It was 1st person, present-tense surrealism. One reader was awesome enough to do a full edit to make the story more normal. I hated it. I didn’t change a single word in that story at the time. (This last week, however, I changed the tense and the first and last paragraphs. That’s it.)

I’ve sent Climb to Weird Tales, Ideomancer and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Weird Tales and Ideomancer both turned it down, but included notes to the effect of ‘that is spectacular writing’. The responses floored me, given the reader’s dislike of it.

I have gotten similar feedback on all of my weird stories. “Beautiful”, from publishers. “Confusing and overwrought” from most of the readers.

Earlier this month, I wrote a flash piece for Shock Totem. It was weird, all right! Mountainous women who snacked on teeth, hell-horses with chili-spice-flavored teeth, the history of the world carved on vast teeth…etc. I took a risk on it, because it was a lot of world-building for 700 words.

The feedback is predictable. There wasn’t any middle ground to speak of! The majority of people found it confusing or disconnected. A few people gave me praise for it. Love it or hate it.

I’ve got to admit, the frustrates me a little. I can write decent ‘regular’ spec-fic, and enjoy it, but I don’t feel that I’ve got much of my voice in it. It’s like my art skills: I can copy damn near anything, and it will look good, but it won’t be me, and it won’t be fabulous.

I do feel that stories like Climb, Hidden Fire, New Name and Tooth, Finger, Eye are (or have the potential to be) fabulous, memorable, one of a kind pieces.

But they get such mixed results, that I’m not really sure what to think! It’s not a matter of whether or not they are good, feedback and gut tell me that they are. It’s a matter of sustainability. I honestly don’t know, with the market being what it is, if it is worth my time to submit these stories.

*sigh* Climb is out on submission, and I’ll turn the Shock Totem piece into a full story. Hidden Fire needs a polish, and then I’ll see if Bull-Spec wants it. New Name needs another couple thousand words, so I don’t know where that one is going. I’m not giving up on my darlings. But I do wonder if this is conceit on my part.


4 Responses to “Love it or Hate it?”

  1. You’ve been in the game long enough to have a solid idea of what the average reader is going to think of your style. It appears that you have already made some adjustments while not sacrificing your gut instinct on what your voice should be. I think you have reached a skill level where it’s time to trust in yourself.

    Don’t fret too much on the multitude of opinions. Pay close attention to comments from editors (if you are fortunate enough to get them) and other than that, follow your heart.

    You’re a damned good writer. You’ll find a way to settle into what works for you soon. BTW, I’m impressed with your drive. It makes me dizzy. 😀

  2. Sounds like your readers aren’t the right kind of readers. I’m generally not a fan of the weird, bizarro stuff, so I’m probably not the right guy to give feedback on that sort of stuff. But someone like John (Shiney) loves that shit. Have you read his stories? They’re waaaaay out there. He’s the kind of reader you want.

    But maybe you’ve already got those readers. I don’t know.

    Are your readers just readers, or are they writers? I’ve learned the most about technique from writers, but I’ve gotten the best feedback from readers, people that can’t spell worth a damn and don’t know a lick about grammar beyond the basics. They read the story the way it should be read—simply as a story. Writers tend to read stories how they would write them, which is why critiques are often so damn frustrating.

    • Jaym Gates Says:

      Two Kens replying? Oh dear, the end is near!

      Ken K: Thank you. I know that we write 100% differently, but you’ve always been able to put that aside and give me worthwhile feedback. My drive? It’s called obsession. I am too stubborn to not succeed! World be warned.

      Ken A: Unfortunately, mostly writers critique my stuff. And yeah, it DOES end up being ‘well I would have done it this way’. (I went out to a magazine launch last night, and got to talk to some readers, and it was awesome and very different.) At this point, I think I need to start building a group of readers for my stories. I’m just not sure where to go for such things. My area is notoriously lacking in, well, everything.

      Shiney’s stuff is great. That’s part of why I like ST: there’s some WEIRD stuff in it!

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