Friday, October 23, 2009


I have this frequent argument with myself.

Meek Kate:  My story is too out there.  It'll make readers uncomfortable.  They'll wonder what's wrong with me!

Bold Kate:  Every novel I've ever loved was out there (at least for its time).  Every one was the result of an author's courage.  Mine probably isn't out there enough!  Man up, you lily-livered whine lover!

Obviously Meek Kate loses every argument, but she continues to worry that risk-taking in novels is a little like risk-taking in fashion.  It's universally spoken of as a Good Thing, but if you go too far, it's unlikely anyone whose opinion matters will ever tell you.  As far as I know, there is no form rejection for "this is batshit crazy and who the fuck do you think you are?"  No, you'll get a polite "not for us," which could mean anything and is a waste of analysis.

Of course, there is an obvious explanation for the lack of "batshit crazy" forms.  Of all the reasons agents and editors reject fiction, too audacious is probably at the bottom of the list.

The lesson to Meek Kate is to stop flattering yourself with this nonsense and spend your energy worrying about execution.


  1. I asked a question during a panel discussion yesterday at SiWC, which was, "Where's the line between 'fresh and original' and 'crazy and inaccessible'?" The answer, from an editor, was that good-enough writing can overcome the reader's resistance to any idea.

    Think Lolita. There's no way that book should have worked, but Nabokov is such damned good writer that it did.

  2. I appreciate that confirmation, and Lolita is an excellent example! I was also thinking of The Eyre Affair/Thursday Next/Nursery Crime Series by Jasper Fforde and The Gate to Women's Country among others by Sheri S. Tepper.

    I almost wrote in the post, "you can get away with anything if you write very very well." But that wording can lead to the dangerous question, "if I don't think I can write very well (yet), should I rein in my ideas?"

    Obviously the correct answer is, "if you can't write very well, ordinary ideas certainly won't save you."

    As I was falling asleep last night after posting, I came to the conclusion that worrying about the accessibility of my ideas before I have completed my first novel is like worrying about getting stalked by fans - laughably premature. The only thing that matters right now is improving my craft.

  3. BTW, the fact that you asked that makes me *really* want to read your novel!

    I hope you have been having a fantastic time at the conference!