Not everyone is gonna like your writing

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In tenth grade, college prep English, we did a lot of creative writing.  We also did a lot of reading.  None of the reading was genre stuff – no fantasy or scifi.  It was mostly ‘literature’, which is fine, but I’ve always thought that there are some fantastic pieces out there in the genre world that would be wonderful for use as a class assignment.

But that’s not the point of this post.  I want to talk about the writing.  I would be willing to say that 99% of what I wrote in high school was ill-received by my teachers.  I was in all college prep English classes, by the way.  Except for Senior year when there was a mix-up and I ended up being a Teaching Assistant instead – that’s a different story.

My tenth grade English teacher wore blue jeans every day, which I just thought was so cool.  He had these over-sized belt buckles too and a bushy mustache.  Strange the things you remember.  Also, he didn’t care for my writing much.  Being a scifi head, not so much fantasy back then, whenever given the chance to write freely, I went home to momma, so to speak.  I did well enough, got decent grades, but he never really sparked to my stories as much to my writing, if that makes sense.  In other words, I had the use of language down, my sentence structure rocked – I knew what I was doing.  He just didn’t like what I was doing.

It sticks out in my brain because there were a couple days when he was out – I want to say he had jury duty, and they brought in a substitute.  The Sub stuck to the lesson plan and handed us a creative writing assignment.  We had that class to write a quick short story featuring ourselves as the main character, only we had a secret that no one else knew and we had to write about that secret and stay anonymous – no one could sign their papers or use their real names in the piece.

I, of course, took hold of that concept and turned it into the idea of a secret identity/double life – like a superhero.  Only that was boring.  Now, a super villain… that had a decent twist that I could work with.  I scribbled away furiously and came up with this quick little story about how I had this secret identity as a super villain who was out to take over the school through laced cafeteria food and subliminal messages inside the text books.  At the end of the hour, I turned in my work and went about my day.

The following day, the Sub was still there and he’d chosen the best of the best from the stories turned in the day before and intended to read them in front of the class.  He picked mine as the absolute ‘best’.  I was thrilled.  Anonymously, of course, but still thrilled.  I’d written a lot up to that point, and my regular teacher had never given me such praise as this Sub was doing.  Warmed my heart, it did.  I left that class feeling much better than usual.  Sort of like walking on cloud nine.

The next day, our regular teacher was back and he’d taken a look at the assignment and had some different thoughts.  First and foremost, he panned my piece as the absolute WORST! He shredded it (figuratively) in front of everyone.  I felt horrible after that class.  It really brought me down.  Waaaay down.

Sigh.

The point of this story?

Not everyone is going to like what I write, or what you write for that matter.  I’ve got a friend who is stressing because literary agents she’s contacted either don’t like what she’s queried them on, or they like aspects of it and want her to change it up to make it ‘better’, or they see some talent and want completely different things from her altogether versus what she actually wants to write.

All it takes, though, is for one person to like it and it makes your day.

This is where all those books and stories from published authors comes into play, folks.  It sucks to think that you might get rejected over a hundred times like Stephen King, but all it takes is that one time when you’re not rejected, when the person on the other end of that query really likes what they see.

Then, you’re on your way…

~P

1 comment for “Not everyone is gonna like your writing

  1. September 5, 2009 at 9:49 am

    This is of course very true and wise-words for any writer to keep in mind. Just look at such books as Twilight, that while generally decent, are lamented as horrible by many and yet they have been extremely commercially successful. Then there is Harry Potter; again extremely successful, but there are still many that think it is teaching Wicca and abhor it.

    I have only just sent out my first submission to a fantasy magazine for a short story so I am sure I will only begin to realize the fullness of this point very soon. I can hope that my sub will be accepted, but F&SF is very picky and they have the ability to be with their large following.

    On the other side of the coin, there will be some aspiring authors that write poorly with ill-conceived derivative plots that will also (given some persistence and luck) find someone to publish their work. Granted that there will be very few (hopefully) that can maintain this charade, it will and does happen. Just look at Hollywood and some absolutely horrible movies where millions were spent on pieces that were hardly worthy the cost of their celluloid.

    In regards to your story, perhaps your teacher was greatly distasteful of genre fiction and felt you had potential and were wasting it on “drivel”. Perhaps it was his strange attempt at caring and supporting you in your writing.

    Who knows…

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