April 23, 2012

Do Not Feed the Inner Editor

The life of an "emerging" writer (imagine a sleepy bear coming out of a cave, skinny from hibernation and hungry and cranky--or a butterfly, whatever) is a cycle of 1) write something, 2) send it to a market, 3) get rejected, and 4) repeat steps 2-3 until either it gets accepted or you get so sick of it that you stop trying.

See? This bear is so desperate it's eating grass.

This is the pattern I'm used to, and though it has (many!) downsides, there is one upside: if you're like me and you don't know much about markets or editors' preferences in the first place, you're free to pretty much write whatever you're compelled to write, and worry about finding it a happy home later.

There's another pattern, which until lately was purely theoretical to me. In this version, 1) an editor approaches the writer and asks for a story, 2) the writer writes the story, and 3) if it's acceptable, the editor buys it. The thing I'm procrastinating on right now is writing one of these stories.

This is awesome for a number of reasons. For one, even though the editor is a friend and I can't totally shake the feeling that this gig is charity, it does make me feel less like something that's emerging, all covered in cocoon juice or dried leaves, and more like a "real" writer. Also, it's refreshing not to worry about placing a story. In theory, this should be freeing up my mind to write it.

But my mind is a frustrating thing, and apparently not well-suited to looking on the bright side. Now that I have a specific audience to write for--a specific editor, and one whose tastes I'm fairly familiar with--my mind gets to obsess about what that editor will think. Every writer has an inner editor who lives in our heads, right? And in order to get any real work done we have to get that jerk to shut up. Well, now my inner editor has a friend. And getting them both to shut up is a challenge.

Inner Editor does not approve this post.

3 comments:

  1. If we're thinking about the same editor, I know that:

    1) It's not charity: He's invested a ton of time of resources in this project and, being the selfish bastard that I know him to be, would never jeopardize it on writers he didn't trust.

    2) This editor asked YOU to write a story because he loves your voice and respects your skill. So write the story you want to write, and if it needs to be massaged for this specific market, he'll work with you on it.

    3) Quit procrastinating. ;)

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    Replies
    1. I wasn't fishing.

      #3 is a real thing, though.

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  2. I had a comment but the site ate it. >:|

    It was basically a funny semi-insulting way of saying I know how you feel, only now I have to pee and I don't feel like writing it again. So you'll just have to imagine I was clever and erudite (and if you like you can imagine I wasn't semi-insulting, but I bet it's really hard to even theorize about such a thing when it's me we're talking about).

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