What Do You Write?
‘What do you write?’
As a question, that never used to be complicated. I write comic fantasy, it’s where my heart and mind sit and live and laugh and share. It’s just…me. The first person to inspire me to believe I could write as any kind of professional gig was Douglas Adams, and the ideas which come to me and have the most natural ‘legs’ sit naturally within the comic fantasy/comic sci-fi genre.
Sure, over the years, you have ideas in different genres, and you think ‘Oh, that might be fun, when I’m finished with the story I’m actually writing right now…’ I’ve got a trilogy of darker, more philosophical stories that are waiting in the wings, as well as a kind of Jurassic Park-meets-Brave New World techno-social satire that I’m putting off more or less because it would be deeply difficult to write, whereas the comic fantasy stuff comes easily to my mind and fingers.
But someone asked me the question again recently, and it stymied me.
‘What do you write?’
I stopped and thought about it, because here’s the dichotomy. What I write and have yet to seriously submit anywhere is comic fantasy, and it’s novel-length comic fantasy at that. So I think of myself as a novelist in the comic fantasy genre.
But what I actually write and submit to places is entirely different. Over the course of the last year or so, inspired initially (and somewhat shamefully, in retrospect) by a pal submitting a story and asking me to have a look at it before she did so, I’ve submitted a handful of erotic short stories to three publishers.
I’ve submitted five.
The publisher of the first one – the one inspired by my pal submitting and me, being bloody-minded, thinking ‘Well, why not give it a go?’ – said some very kind words about it. Something along the lines of me ‘having missed my calling in life till now.’ That’ll put a spring in your step, I don’t mind telling you, especially when it was written the night before the submission deadline in a bit of a blur. If you want to catch up with my first official foray into erotica, the anthology’s called Sinful Pleasures, from Sinful Press. Go click and enjoy.
The second one I submitted, a story of vampires on the Queen Mary, I was never happy with and rightly, I think, it failed to get published.
The third and fourth were two different stories in two different anthologies published by an American publisher, SinCyr Publishing, with whom I’m rather smitten for the grooviness of their consent-and-body-positivity politics. Check out Working It and Owning it here. And I’ve heard today that the fifth one is also to be published by them in an upcoming anthology, called Kintsugi. There’s a sixth which is alive in my mind for a submission call with them which has to be done by the end of the month.
So far, my story in Sinful Pleasures was Male/Female, from a Male perspective. The Vampire story was a free-for-all, but again from a Male perspective. Working It was Female/Male, from a Female perspective. Owning It was mostly Female/Female, from a self-evidently Female point of view. Kintsugi was Male/Male and Male/Female, from a Male viewpoint. and the new one which I intend to submit by the end of the month is – get this, it’s in the submission requirements – Male/Male, romantic shapeshifting pregnancy with a happy ending. Which I suppose, if nothing else, brings in a degree of fantasy writing – or at least, it does the way I’m doing it.
All of which is just a way of re-framing how we see ourselves. If people ask you ‘What do you write?’, do you answer them based on what you aspire to be, or based on what you’ve actually delivered? You can argue black is blue that you shouldn’t have to put yourself in a box, but it’s a key question when adding items to your authorial CV – have you done similar things before with any provable success? If you went for an interview, you couldn’t get away with saying ‘Well, I’ve been successful in several positions as a bricklayer before now, but really I see myself as a computer programmer,’ because your proven experience wouldn’t match the requirements of the role.
So what do I write?
Hell, I’m still writing comic fantasy, and enjoying it, and getting good responses when I show it to people. But purely on the basis of production, submission, and popular uptake, I guess you’d have to say the chief strings to my bow are currently erotic short stories and Doctor Who audio drama scripts, of which I’ve also written four in the last year or two, with a fifth to be delivered by the end fo the month. What you write, ultimately, isn’t just a question of what you actually write, but what you write, finish, and submit somewhere, because it’s what other people know you write, or can be shown that you’ve written, that ultimately builds your profile as a writer.
So – best finish a novel then, otherwise I’ll be a short story and audio drama writer, rather than the novelist I’ve always thought I was going to be.
Mind you, one publisher did say they’d take a look at pitches from me for a novel-length erotic story…hmm…
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