Lamentations of an upset writer

IWSGIt’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group
Recently, I read a short story collection Word Puppets by Mary Robinette Kowal. The writing quality of this collection was high, hence my rating – 4 stars. The book made a lasting impression on me, but…

My joy level while reading it was about zero. I disliked it. The book was too dark, most stories too hopeless. They made my stomach ache. This book made me hate myself as a writer, made my self-esteem, not too high to begin with, plummet even lower.

The reason for that is the way the author builds her stories. They are not about what happened to the protagonists, nor about the events of the plot. Instead, they are splashes of emotions centered on the characters’ choices and decisions. And most of those emotions are negative. Gloom. Regret. Anguish. Hatred. Despair. Envy. Grief. In many stories, the heroes are damaged, physically or mentally, and their damage affect their actions in a twisted way.

It hurt me to read those stories. I finished the book only because I got it from NetGalley and I was expected to write a review.

When I write my own stories, I don’t want my readers hurt. I want them entertained, so I consciously stay away from deep, dark emotions. I try to make my stories as light as I can. I often employ subtle humor and emphasize the causality of events that compile the plot. But while Kowal got all her stories published in top genre magazines, while they won Hugos and Hugo nominations, I haven’t been able to place even one story in any magazine for the last year and a half.

I do not feel envy. No, I’m glad Kowal got her success: she deserves it. What I feel is sadness. Obviously, I don’t understand what people want to read. That’s why no editor wants my stories. Why do I keep writing them then? Why do I keep submitting? I think I should stop, and that decision is as painful as Kowal’s best stories.



This entry was posted in Insecure Writer's Support Group, Olga Godim, Reading, Short Story, Writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Lamentations of an upset writer

  1. It hurts me to read this post. I know that wasn’t your intent, but as someone who also anguishes over the creation of fun and uplifting stories, I sense the truth in your words. Maybe I’m a dinosaur. Maybe I’m naive. Maybe I’ll be discovered after I’m dead. But I keep going back to the crazy popularity of Frozen and Harry Potter. There has to be an audience for writers like us out there.
    The problem is the well is deep and it’s dark down here. I don’t know how to climb out either, but I keep trying.

    • Olga Godim says:

      Yes, to keep trying seems to be the key. I do. I can’t get rid of my stories – they just keep coming. But maybe I should concentrate on self-publishing instead of submitting. I hope this depressive stage is temporary.

  2. Nicola says:

    I’m sorry you are feeling despair at the moment. You’re not alone in your plight for publication. And even though our stories are not accepted (much better term that the ‘R’ word), they will find a home somewhere. I will pass on advice given to me today by the lovely Donna Weaver, ‘…self-publish…if you are proud of your story then readers deserve to be able to read it.’ I hope this helped. It did me 🙂 Keep writing!!! And enjoy the process!!

  3. Don’t give up! You can’t please everyone with your writing, but I guarantee that if you love what you’re writing, someone else will too. I think publishing is going through a phase right now of loving anti-heroes/darkness/complex emotions, but it’s very subjective. Who’s to say, really, what readers will love or hate? I tend to ignore any books that have won awards/have been critically-acclaimed/have a lot of hype now – I honestly tend to hate them, and I can’t understand why they won awards in the first place. Like I said, it’s very subjective. But keep going – there are people out there who will love your work, no matter what 🙂

    Rachel Pattinson
    February IWSG Co-host

  4. ChrysFey says:

    I like dark stories but there is such a thing as too dark. I loved Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn but did not like Dark Places. It was disturbing and made me cringe. There’s nothing wrong with writing dark stories or light stories. It’s all up to the author, and there are readers for both. Don’t ever give up on your book or writing! Keep trying.

  5. dolorah says:

    Sometimes I like light hearted stories, usually I prefer the darker ones though. Just my nature. I think there are as many shifts in the publication world as there are moods of people. Dark is popular now, especially in YA. Horror never seems to go out of style. Who knows what editors want. I hope you find a good balance for your stories Olga. I found them refreshing – well, the couple I read. Still haven’t gotten to them all . . .

  6. Denise Covey says:

    I’m sorry to hear this Olga. Trouble is publishers have realised readers want DARK. And they want it on every page. Don’t forget how we loved Blue Santa. Write something light and refreshing and we will love it!! Thanks so much for signing up!

    Denise 🙂

  7. You need to keep writing what calls to you, not what other people are writing. We all have different reasons we write and sometimes those dark emotions need to come out somehow. It’s why I sometimes go the darker route, but honestly, I prefer to read uplifting stories.

  8. Diane Burton says:

    Write what you like to read. Write from your heart. What satisfies you as a reader. I don’t read dark event though it’s popular. Too much doom & gloom is upsetting. I write suspense with humor because it’s what I like to read. You can’t be the only person who likes to read what you like to write. Write for yourself. There are bound to be readers who like it, too.

  9. I’ll be sure to avoid that book. Life has enough pain, I don’t want it in my fiction!

    I wouldn’t sell entertainment value too lightly. There are all kinds of successful books and movies that don’t have deep meanings or heartrending realities and they are still excellent.

  10. I’m sorry that book affected you so. I’m one who likes entertaining and being entertained. I do write dark but in my stories it’s the light that wins out over the darkness. You have to remember the critics have a very different reason for their picks than the general public, just like the most popular movies don’t win the awards during Oscar time. That says a lot and I think is the same for the writer. Don’t give up – never give up! Find someone who will show you the best way for self-publication and begin creating your own following! You are a magnificent writer! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

  11. Loni Townsend says:

    I stopped reading the Fire & Ice series by GRRM after the first book because it depressed me. I also didn’t like an anthology I read because it pretty much portrayed people as inherently evil, petty, and nasty. I’m an optimist myself, and I want other people to be too. I want them to be doers, to strive, to roar in the face of their adversaries. Because that’s who I am, and that’s who I relate to. “Gloom. Regret. Anguish. Hatred. Despair. Envy. Grief.” <- I don't relate to any of those (maybe regret and occasionally grief, but not the rest). Something tells me I wouldn't like the book either.

    But I enjoy other dark stuff. Monsters lurking around the corner give me chills. That anticipation of fear… I do like that. I also enjoy dark humor, violence, and the occasional sadistic torture. I am okay with the protagonist getting crushed and ground into the dirt… so long as he stands again on broken feet to scream, "I will not be defeated!" Throw in a manic laugh and I'm sold. If he wallows in gloom and despair instead of rising above, well, I wouldn't like that so much.

    I want triumph when I read. The journey can be dark, so long as there's a victory laugh at the end.

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