Six Hundred Sixty Six Bottles of Blood on the Wall: 6 things I’ve learned part 2
This ran a little longer than I planned. I had a lot to say, especially on the last point on this list, and that last point is probably the most important lesson I or any writer can learn except, I guess, for the power of actually writing in the first place. It’s been kind of an emotional milestone for me, but don’t skip down there quite yet, there’s some good stuff leading up to it. Here’s 6 more things I’ve learned in my first year of taking writing seriously.
I like trying new things – As I teased last week, I’ll start with this one. I love trying new things. This is true in all aspects of my life and probably why I’m single. But I’ve definitely noticed it in writing over the last year. Trying new things has certainly impacted my reading too. About a year ago I thought comics or graphic novels were a stupid idea. Then I read a few. They are awesome. I’m still not crazy about superheroes, but I’m real glad I tried something new and checked out Locke and Key, Preacher, and Hack/Slash. I will never scoff at comics again. When it comes to writing, I’ve discovered that I like themes and challenges and contests because it forces me to write outside my comfort zone whether it be in content or style. For example, I’ve written two radically different retellings of the fairy tale “The Frog Prince” in 2013. I’ve sold one, and I’m still waiting to hear back on the second. I never, in a million years would’ve done that, but I did, and I’m glad, because adult fairy tales are fun and I had a blast writing them. I got to try something new and something difficult and intimidating. Now I LOVE writing first person female, it’s so crazy. I’ve also tried writing all dialogue stories and even an all dialogue from one character story. It’s weird, but it’s solid and a lot of fun, not to mention it kind of creeps me out. I’m guessing it’s going to get rejected since I sent it to a pro market, but you never know, maybe they like trying new things too.
I’m an alliteration whore– I’ll be honest, I don’t notice a lot of writers doing this, so maybe this is taboo or something, but I do it all the time. I don’t know why but I love alliteration. When I’m writing an action scene I guarantee you there will be some alliteration in there. I like playing with language and off rhymes, rhymes and alliteration is something that I don’t see enough of in fiction. Or if it exists I don’t notice it. Sometimes when I’m writing I question the alliteration and my response is almost always the same: “screw it, I’m doing it, if it sucks I’ll fix it in my revision.” Rarely do I fix it in my revision. Also while I do it in almost every story, I try to keep it under control. I don’t just bomb you with 8 words in a row, but 3 or 4 well timed and back to back? I think that can really add to the urgency of the action scene and help the story and the flow. (You’re all welcome I wasn’t an asshole and didn’t write this whole point in alliteration.)
The publishing business takes forever– I guess I should’ve known this, but it’s actually even slower than I thought, by a whole bunch. I’ve been at this for about a year and in that year I’ve signed somewhere around 12 contracts. To date, only two of those stories have actually seen publication. Some presses move faster than others and I’ve noticed that the really, really small presses and webzines seem to move the fastest but you’re still looking at a minimum of at least a couple months. Mid-level, and I don’t even know if that’s right, let’s just say the small presses that are bigger than the tiny presses move even slower. I’m not complaining, not at all, they need time to read the stories, edit the stories, secure contracts, get the artwork, edit the stories again, pay the authors and all kinds of other stuff that I probably don’t even know about. A quality product takes time, and I have no problem with that, but for those of you just starting out, get ready to be patient. I read a quote from Trent Zelazny on Twitter that said something along the lines of: once you’ve sold your story, be patient and wait on the publisher. Their job is to publish your work, not publish your work and give you a handjob. This means be patient and leave them alone. And in all that waiting, you should be writing your ass off so that when that story of yours finally comes out, you’ve got more to offer the people that enjoyed your work.
Comparing myself to established writers is a BAD idea– I went through a pretty serious Richard Laymon imitation phase, hell I’m probably still there sometimes, and with him being one of my all-time favorite writers, I think there will always be a piece of him in my work. But comparing my work to his is counterproductive. Same with the tons of other writers that I love. You should compete with yourself and no one else. Sooner or later you will capture your own voice and your own style. “It’s all been done before blah blah blah,” and maybe it has, but it hasn’t been done YOUR way before. So find a way to do it your way and keep it fresh. I’m a firm believer that most creative people don’t find their identity until much later in their career and the best ones are constantly evolving. I have no idea where I’ll end up, but I will say that lately and not at all on purpose, I’ve kind of taken a step back from the hardcore horror that I love and I’ve been working on some other stuff, some humor, some flash fiction, some relationship stories. Right now I’m working on a dark, psychological character study that focuses a lot on CreepyPasta. If you’ve never heard of CreepyPasta look it up, it’s pretty cool. I also just finished a story that I’d call a mashup of the television shows South Park and 24. I’m still flailing to discover my identity, and I kind of hope I never do, I enjoy dabbling in all of this craziness. I can’t compare myself to any other writer, that’s unhealthy. I’ll let the readers do that, it’ll probably be entertaining.
Comparing myself to my “peer writers” for lack of a better term, is a WORSE idea– You will be tempted and you will do this. You will buy collections that you get rejected from and read every story and tell yourself how much they all suck and how much better your story was. If you ever find yourself doing this, tell yourself to take a step back and shut the hell up. This is unhealthy and will lead to nothing but envy and contempt between you and other writers. I’ve definitely done this and I occasionally still do, but I’m also still pretty new to this. This is a rookie move. Get over it and keep writing and keep getting better. Rejection sucks, I’ve written extensively about it in the past and yeah it can sting when you see all these familiar names, probably some you’re even friends with on Facebook that made a TOC while you didn’t. Don’t hate them, don’t get angry. Instead buy that collection, read it, enjoy it and see what you can LEARN from those other authors. That will help you so much more than hating them or being angry with them or getting all delusional and convincing yourself that your story was better than theirs. That’s dumb. I promise. I know from experience. Also, it NEVER hurts to support the other authors that you’re friends with. We live in an amazing technological age, and most writers you come across are accessible in some capacity. Even if you don’t know them, read their stories, ask them some questions about the stories, they’ll probably love the conversation and they’ll probably help you out. Find ‘em on Facebook, this is how friendships are forged. (Alliteration, told ya)
I don’t care anymore– Here’s a little known fact about KGSL. I actually published my first short story in 2010. I don’t count it because it was so long ago and because I wasn’t taking writing very seriously at that point. I also didn’t tell ANYONE about that story when it came out. It’s about a guy who breaks into his ex-girlfriend’s house to steal her underwear, bad things happen. Had I embraced that first publication and used it as a catalyst, I probably would be much further (farther?) down the path on my writing quest. But I didn’t. And do you know why? Because I was ashamed and embarrassed about what I’d written, even though it was apparently good enough to get published! I was afraid that people would read it and think I was a creep. I submitted it, but I didn’t want anyone else to read it. Counterintuitive, I know. So here, I had just burst through the wall, gotten that elusive first publication and instead of embracing it and taking advantage of that momentum, fear of being judged as a writer and a person kept me from telling anyone about it. Even when I started taking writing seriously a year ago I felt that way. It took a year, some results and a lot of self-evaluation to come to the conclusion that I DO NOT GCARE. I want to be a writer, point blank. That’s it. That’s what I want and goddammit that’s what I’m going to do and I’m NOT, REPEAT NOT, going to apologize for that. Or be ashamed of that. Here’s another little known KGSL fact: One time I got dumped by a serious girlfriend over a poem I wrote in college. Here’s another: I wrote a story for a fiction workshop in grad school that got me in some trouble back in like 2007 or 2008. (I might tell all in a future blog, it’s a good story, both the story I wrote and the storm it sparked) I understand the point of view of my professor, I really do, but that whole thing really kind of screwed me up, made me feel ashamed, made me feel guilty. I’m over it now, it’s actually kind of funny, but it took a while and like scar tissue I grew back tougher and uglier. Now, I’m just fine with spilling blood and every other type of bodily fluid all over the page and typing that page with two middle fingers. 😀
I have no idea how my family, assuming they ignore my blatant mantra of “Don’t read it,” is going to react to a threesome murder/rape scene that happens in a story I’ve got coming out later this year. And it gets worse and worse from there. But I’m over it. I honestly don’t care anymore. If they want to read it, I’m not going to stop them and if they want to talk about it, well that’s fine, I guess, as long as they’re buying the drinks. It should make for an interesting conversation, maybe we’ll put it on Youtube. For each story I write, I know who the audience is, and sometimes (almost all the time) it’s not my parents, my co-workers or even the college kids in my classes. And my parents are awesome by the way, always supporting me and I couldn’t ask for better, and I think they get it, but it’s still hard for me to deal with. It’s something I’ll probably always struggle with. But I’ll own that. And I know that the juice is worth the squeeze and they’ll always be happy and proud of me. They mailed me a card when my first story came out, it blew me away. It really did. My M&D are that awesome.
I’m prepping my own collection “Guilty as Sin” as some of you know. That story that I published way back in 2010 is getting another shot at the spotlight, and I’m happy to have it there. It will be a nice, early story to ease the reader into all the sick stuff that will follow. That story, “The Scent,” that I was so embarrassed and ashamed of a couple years ago, has become just the tip of the iceberg. And I couldn’t be happier with where I’m at and, where I’m going.
AND FOR THAT I’M NOT SORRY.
I was going to save the “I don’t care anymore” thing I’ve learned for last next week, but I’ve got a couple other ideas. I hope you’re enjoying this series and that you find some value here. Let me know if you have any questions at [email protected] or swing by my FB page New World Horror – Kerry G.S. Lipp and say hi. I’ve got a couple free stories posted there. I’m waiting for you with talons out and teeth sharpened. I’ll give you the final six next week, (though I’m realizing I’ve learned way more than 18 things) and I’ve got some serious bombs to drop! Now go get some writing done.
Keep reading, keep writing, and keep it real,
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Kerry G.S. Lipp is a wannabe writer working hard to drop the wanna be part. He teaches English at a community college by evening and works as a civilian on a military base by night, and usually sleeps during the day. He’s not a big fan of the sun. His stories are currently available in the anthologies Lucha Gore and Under The Knife and several more will follow in 2013. His parents have started reading his stories and it appears that he is now out of the will. Follow him on Twitter @kerrylipp. You can read his short ‘Smoke’ at SNM Magazine.