Charlie's Blog

Find Your Niche

Tuesday, July 18, 2023 3:48 AM

            Well, my track record for getting into the HWA's Poetry Showcase remains unbroken. I didn't even get the formal, we enjoyed your poem but... I got a brief, "we did not accept your poem". It's not the first time, and it won't be the last. I either have to write darker poetry, or find another market.

            Many years ago, after auditioning for a play at a theatre that will not be named, the director (and co-owner) took my husband and I aside and gave us a speech that basically said we should focus on auditioning for theatres that cast us. There were—and are—dozens of them in the area, but we chose to audition for the theatres that put on good, family-friendly plays we enjoyed. That's why we auditioned for them.

            We took him at his word and never went back. Well, my husband was in a play when he was personally asked by the director to audition, but we found better theatres where we were appreciated. Over the course of nine years, I was in 30 plays, mostly musicals. My performance was noted a few times in reviews. I know that rejection wasn't because of my talent. My husband was in more plays, and he's a fine singer. It was just that they had a narrow view of who they thought was right for their shows. We found better theatres and never looked back.

            It just goes to show that you and your work aren't the right fit for everyone, or every market. But if that is your goal, read what that publisher or market puts out and write the best you can. Or find a place where you fit. I write horror, but it's more often quirky rather than dark, and I like humor. Not everyone's cup of horror—especially those who like the gritty, gory horror. I don't read it and I don't write it. But my lighter work does find a market. It's generally in small-press publishers and magazines. I've published over 30 poems to date, and I've won awards for my work, so I'm doing something right, even if it doesn't fit everywhere. 

            So, my takeaway—and what I recommend—is write what you love. Learn your craft, practice your craft, and write, write, write. I've published nine short stories, and I have three ready to send out. I'm working on two more and have ideas for others. In addition, I have four novels I need to fix up. Those are in the early stages, but I think the bones are good. The more I do, the better I get. 

            Last year, I fell in love with a new genre and decided I wanted to write a book in that genre. I listened to 100 audiobooks by a variety of authors and I have a first draft of a novel. I'm coming up with ways to flesh it out and ramp up the subplot. I'm excited about it. My other three books are in different genres, but I love their potential. I've found what I love and I love writing in these areas. And because I love what I write, I think it's helping me write better.

            I'm also getting better at rejection. I've never made a quilt of rejection letters, but I could. I have a folder of from the days when you mailed in your submissions, and I have a folder of electronic rejections. I also have a list. I get way more rejections than I do acceptances, but sometimes I get something that makes me feel good about being a writer.

            "Looking for Love" was written for a horror anthology. I needed a monster, but didn't want to write a typical monster story. So, I wrote about a lonely woman who was a zombie and was looking for love in the wrong place. It did not end well. Women loved it. I was even asked by a fellow writer if I was going to write a sequel. I may, someday, if I get a good idea for one.

            For my most recent story, "Home-Grown Resistance," I pitched an idea to the publisher about a granny who used non-traditional methods to fight off a vampire who was coming for her granddaughter. They said they'd read that story. I wrote it, and they bought it. I'm very pleased with how it turned out. 

            My WIP short story is a revenge story, a ghost story, and a bad Christmas story. I'm having a lot of fun with the rewrites. It's short, not-so-sweet, and hopefully to the point. 

            What I'm trying to say is that I love the stories I've published. I love the characters. I've worked on them a lot. Some have gone through five or six rewrites. Some more. I write ideas I love. Sometimes I write for a specific market or anthology. Sometimes I write the story and then look for a market. Both work at different times. But I love writing them, and I enjoy editing them to make them flow better and have greater impact. I'm also slowly finding success. I have a publisher who wants to put out a collection of my short stories and poetry. It won't be for a bit, but I need to write more for the length he wants. That is huge to me. I'll be part of a collection of works by local authors and I'm happy to be part of them. I'm also pleased he thinks my work is worthy of a collection.

            This time round, I've been focusing on my writing for a decade. But I'm going at it with more courage, more determination, and more tools in my belt. This month, I attended a Writers Cantina. I listened to some great presentations and I had some great conversations. I came away from it more excited to write. Next week, two of my writing groups are meeting and I'll get some critiques on three new poems. I'm excited to hear their feedback and see where I need to make changes. For the other, I'm excited to learn. All this helps my writing.

            Find a good group of writers who inspire you, help you be better, and give you a chance to help them. I learn a LOT from other writers through helpful critiques and positive feedback. Next month is the Quill's Conference and the Olive Woolley Bert Awards. I have a number of poems entered into the contest. I'm hopeful I'll get something. Even an honorable mention is a win. It all helps me on my journey, and it helps me grow.

            I hope you can find a place where you have support to write and to move forward. :)