Monday, July 22, 2013

Be True To Yourself

I've been pondering something and I'm going to pass it on to you. Misery always loves company. Right? Nah, not really. But something has come up that is giving me a bit of a quandry. Yet, deep in my heart, I know what my answer is. Still, it's good to sort it out and give some guidance to others who may have the same situation someday.

Last night I wrote a story about a difficult day I'd had the week before. It would be perfect for the title of a new anthology looking for stories on the same theme. I wrote it from a humorous angle (or so I thought) but I didn't exaggerate or embellish. The story itself felt like enough to me. The anthology group does like their stories to be a bit on the edgy side, humorous and even encourages the use of swear words. Nothing horrible, just what one would consider 'mild swearing' if there is such a thing.

I sent the story to my critique group and this morning one person had looked at it. She, whose writing I admire greatly, told me she thought it needed some swearing and up the humor by saying what could be construed as humiliating remarks about a person in the story. Exaggeration, it seemed, is what she was proposing. She knows the anthology market I was aiming for and she, like me, had taken their suggestion to heart. In fact, I had suggested somewhat the same to her on one of her stories aimed for this series, too. Maybe we are both trying to fall the guidelines a little too distinctly.

I thought about it for awhile and knew I could probably rewrite the story with a handful of mild cuss words tossed in for good measure. But it wasn't going to change what occurred. Not that I have a problem with an occasional expletive. I do use them once in awhile, usually when I'm extremely frustrated and lose control. So, it's not that I would never, ever say one of those words. But to me, it didn't need to be added to my story. Doing so would not make it a better story.

Nor do I feel the need to exaggerate the humor to the point of humiliating someone in the story. I can go along with some mild teasing but not out and out humiliation or degradation of character. Uh-uh! So, scratch that change, too.

The quandry is whether or not I should submit the story as is, or should I just decide that this anthology group is not for me and move on? 

One thing I have answered in my pondering of this situation is that I am not willing to write in a way that is not me just to get my story into this book. We've all heard the stories about editors who say the story is good in a novel but it needs a lot more sex and dirty words in it for it to sell. Sure, I'll read those kinds of books, but they are not the only books I read. I want a good story whether it is pure as the white sheets on my bed or as flaming as the scarlet roses in my garden. Story comes first for me, the sensational marketing ploys don't always attract me.

To be fair to the editors and publisher of the anthology series, I think they are willing to accept edgier stories than others are, but I don't think that is the only thing they are looking for. Nor do I think they will reject a story only because there are no cuss words in it. The more important consideration is the story itself.

I am going to look at my story again, perhaps try to up the humor a little and send it in. If it's good enough to stand on its own, the editor is going to take it. If not, then I know I made the effort and will chalk it up to experience. I hope that I will remember a piece of advice I've heard more than once. Be true to yourself.


  1. I'd say give them a chance to accept your story without the embellishments that aren't really your voice.

    If they reject it, then you'll know for next time and probably find another market that this fits better.

  2. I agree, be true to yourself! Edgy doesn't always mean using swear words and they don't necessarily make things more humorous. Sometimes subtle humor is the best. I much prefer something like "the family jewels" instead of the actual word describing those jewels...and find it much funnier!