In which I indulge in an extended metaphor

This comment from last week has me thinking:

Yes, est. writers get a lot of slack to do what they want, but then how are new writers supposed to know what’s acceptable?

Short answer: What’s acceptable is what gets a check.

Long answer: I think new writers need to clear a higher bar because readers don’t know what to expect from us. We not only have to get across what story we’re about to tell, but what kind of story it’s going to be. All in a few paragraphs. Very often, all an established writer has to do is clear the same bar, because readers know they like that bar and are happy when one of their favorite authors clears it again. But a new writer has to define what the bar we’re going to jump over looks like. That bar has to be yours; it can’t look like anybody else’s bar, or they’d be jumping over it. It’s hard to do (I haven’t quite figured it out) but when your story succeeds, it does because it’s new and it’s different and it’s unique because it’s you.

As a reader, that’s why finding a new writer you like is so exciting. That’s why some of my favorite stories are first sales. When you start reading, you don’t know that you’re going to like a story and when you do like it, you get that extra buzz of discovery. I think a collection of all first sales would be really interesting.

Anyway, that’s my theory, and I’m sticking to it until I’m proven wrong.



3 thoughts on “In which I indulge in an extended metaphor

  1. I suspect new writers bring a fresh(er) eye to the game. I’m with you, on the check issue, but at a certain point you feel like that’s what you’re chasing.

    1. Money does crazy things to our motivations. What you have to remember is that the check is merely the proof you have reached your real goal: an editor who says, Yes, I like your story enough to show it to all the people I can reach.

  2. I agree with a lot of what everyone says. That means new writers cannot look at what est. writers get published as examples of ‘how to do it.’ If new writers get published because they have reached a higher bar than they are the only ones to read to understand what editors want. If that’s true, it seems a little strange to me because it means some people do not get published for good stories but for their name in order to sell magazines. Gosh! Could that be true?

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