What Everyone Likes

I’m trying to find a way to write this so that it doesn’t sound whiny or excessively paranoid. However, that is the way I’m feeling at the moment. I just sent two stories off for consideration for a national anthology, and while one was nicely polished and hit all the marks for voice and accuracy, the other was less so.

I am not looking for sympathy comments, by the way. It’s just that people keep saying they want to know what goes on in a writer’s head. I can’t imagine why. It’s a messy, scary place, at times.

This is me, normally, when I’m sewing.

It started yesterday, when I was laying out a couple pairs of shorts. I’ve been sewing my entire adult life, so it’s not entirely crazy that I would be teaching myself to make jeans. Since I’m trying to figure out how best to fit my body, I was laying out the adjusted versions of two different patterns to see which fits the best. As I was laying out the second pattern (which had fit in the front really well, but the back didn’t come up near far enough on mine), I noticed that I really hated the back pockets.

Now, this was a pattern that had gotten rave reviews on a certain sewing forum I’m on. I mean, huge. Everybody loved this freaking pattern, in particular, the back pockets, which were slightly curved and supposedly more flattering. to one’s bum. Now, I have ogled many a bum in my day, and even with the pictures that were posted, couldn’t see what the benefit of the curve was. I do know what a PITA it was to sew that curved pocket. So, I used the pocket from the other jeans.

I was once again reminded that if people are raving about something, the odds are not good that I’m going to like it. I’m not trying to be obtuse, mind you, and I do like some things that are incredibly popular. It’s just that I’ve been to restaurants that have lines of people waiting to get in and usually find that the food doesn’t justify the wait. Movies? Super hits? Even serious films that everyone thought were wonderful. I’ve sat through so many of them, bored to tears that if someone even utters the word “hit,” I won’t go.

Sadly, the reverse is true. If I like it, chances nobody is going to. I love those small town cozies that everyone else loves looking down on. I love the 1812 Overture, never mind how immature that taste is. Someone actually said that to me, which is why I’m not naming names here. I don’t want anybody feeling bad if I write that their favorite composer drives me nuts with his over-wrought earworms.

This is no big deal under normal circumstances. Indeed, I often revel in being the only person to hate a given show because it’s the same three overwrought songs sung over and over. However, I just sent off two stories to be judged by other people. I liked those stories. I really liked them.

It’s not that there isn’t a market for my writing. Lots of people have read my books and liked them. I was even at a book festival recently where a total stranger told me he’d bought my book, Death of the Zanjero, the year before and liked it so much that he’d come back to buy the sequel, Death of the City Marshal. Someone else met me in a hallway and told me how much she liked my book. And thank God for the Internet. People like me may be few and far between, but the Internet can connect us.

This me worrying about my writing.

It’s the paranoia and terror of rejection that envelops me every time I submit something. I’ve been rejected a lot, mostly because they can’t figure out how to sell my work. At least, that’s the comment I get more than any other. Worse yet, I know that second story could have been better because I wrote it at the last second. I’d had a brilliant idea and couldn’t resist. Only it doesn’t feel so brilliant now.

I did shop my first story around for critiquing and the comments were excellent, but the suggestions were to make my story into something I hate reading. Argh. I mean, what’s a woman to do? Try to do what everybody else likes and I hate (which probably won’t work because I hate it)? Or shoot myself in the foot by sticking to my guns?

The good news is that I will be past all this moaning and groaning soon. I am nothing if not resilient, and will soon be back to snarking on overwrought ear worms and reveling in my own unique tastes. If I am rejected, I will bounce back.

In the meantime, I will be whiny and paranoid, because that’s where I’m at right now. It’s scary and messy to be inside a writer’s head, whether any of us likes it or not.

7 thoughts on “What Everyone Likes

  1. There’s a song that says something like, “If it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger.” Most authors know about rejection big-time. It’s something that happens. But every once in a while someone who rejects won’t be able to resist giving you a tidbit on what might work better. That usually means something in your work showed them promise. Take these gifts and use them. They are free and from people who truly want you to succeed.


  2. Anne, I hear ya! I am self published because agents and editors liked my writing but couldn’t figure out how to promote/place my books. I tend to bend genres and love doing it. Like you, I tend to like things others don’t and go “meh” to things that are supposed to be so wonderful. So I can completely relate to all you said in your post.


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