Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Merits Of Experimentation (And Options After)

I'm not big into science fiction. That's not to say I don't like it or don't read it, but I never grew the attachment some people seem to have to the genre. That being said, when the chance to take enter a short story for the HarperCollins and the British Film Institute's Virtual Sci-Fi Festival came along, how could I say no? While I'm not completely in love with sci-fi, I saw it as a chance to not only have my story published by Harper-freaking-Voyager, but it was a way to challenge myself. Since I was going through writers block with Path of the Horseman at the time, it seemed like the perfect cure. 

The story I came up with is called Hook, Line, Sinker, and based on an idea I've had for a while but was never in a rush to do. The concept that hooked me (no pun intended) was based on working with dreams. Yes, kind of like Inception, but not really. In my story, dreams are a food for an alien race, and since they've taken over the world, it was easy for them to coerce humans into stealing dreams for them.

The original idea was a lot longer than I anticipated it would be, as I intended to make it into a full book one day. But as the story limit was 5,000 words, I had to slim it down. Honestly, I'm glad I did for a number of reasons. It made the story interesting, to the point, and achieved its goals. I had a great time coming up with ideas and writing for it.

While I'm realistic about my expectations for the competition (this is HarperVoyager we're talking about, and I imagine the number of entries will be in the thousands), I'm also proud that I took a story that had been on my To Do List and made it into something real. I had a lot of fun writing Hook, Line, Sinker, and reminded me of a NaNoWriMo pep talk from author Brandon Sanderson that I had read earlier:
"You could be writing the book that changes your life. You could have already submitted it, or self-published it. The spark could be starting a fire for you as well. You don’t know, and you can’t know. That is the thrill of being an artist, of working for yourself, and of telling the stories you want to tell."
 His entire pep talk really resonated with me, and gave me a lot more confidence to write Hook, Line, Sinker. Even though I doubt it's the story that will change my career (but fingers are crossed), it felt good to challenge myself. To tell a story I wanted to tell in a genre that's not usually my style, but that I could morph into something that felt like me. 

That's why I always participate in any writing competitions or open submissions that come my way. I stick to what I know for the most part, but it feels good to branch out. After the deadline, when I know the winner has been chosen, I don't know what I'll do with Hook, Line, Sinker. Maybe I'll send it out to a webzine or an open submission. It's not the story I hold closest to my heart, but who knows what could happen if someone else likes it and is willing to give me a chance with something else, in the words of Sanderson, you don't know, and you can't know. Maybe it'll become more explosive than I think, or maybe I'll just end up self-publishing it for the hell of it. Anything is possible, and I can't wait for the next challenge to come my way.


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