May 13th, 2005


selling stories to editors

An interesting question came up on a newsgroup I was reading. Of course all writers write for themselves, to some extent. But what if you discover you have the gift of writing stories a particular editor likes and will buy? How does that affect your output? Do you keep writing that sort of story until the editor will no longer buy it? Or until you get tired? Would you preferentially write the stories you knew would sell?

I've done this, written towards an editor's taste, and it has resulted in sales. But at the same time, I use that taste as a kind of springboard to give me ideas; I'm not a natural writer of short stories (few are, I think) and having some idea of where the story's headed makes me more inclined to write a short story in the first place.

Here's a real-life example: I wrote a story for me, and sold it. Then I wrote a sequel, and sold it to the same editor; still writing for me, but knowing I had a good chance of selling it. Then for the next year's anthology, I tried something completely different both from what I knew of the editor's taste and from what had been previously published in that anthology. It didn't sell. The next submission I sent in was another sequel, in the same style as the two previous stories; still for me, since I wanted to know what happened next to those characters, but also striving to match the editor's taste. Won't find out for a while if it's sold or not. I'll find out in another month or two.

I don't think writing to an editor's taste is bad at all. I think it's sound marketing strategy. But one should get joy out of the writing as well, or what's the point?

Westerfeld, UGLIES

Uglies, Scott Westerfeld

Another YA, this dystopian sf book at first doesn't seem dystopian, since for once the point of view character is not rebelling against her society, in fact wants very much to be a part of it. In this world, everyone is surgically made "pretty" when their bodies have finished growing, supposedly so all people will be equal as far as looks, and indeed the protagonist, Tally, cannot conceive how skin color was once a divisive marker. "Pretties" are smooth-skinned, big-eyed, symmetrical; they have all the signs of childlike vulnerability which I found a bit creepy. Tally's new friend Shay also finds Prettiness a bit creepy, and in fact doesn't want to be Pretty at all.

It's obvious this book deals with Issues: self-esteem, lookism, etc., but the only preachiness is when Tally is mouthing the things she's heard all her life, and we the reader know she's mostly wrong. Or at least, I hope we do.

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