Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pulp Fiction

Some months back I began collecting and categorizing the short stories I have written over the past thirty-five years (at least the ones I could find on hard copy or disk).  My thought was: I certainly have enough published stories to produce a "collection", and I do.  In spades.

But my problem goes deeper than just collecting these pieces.  I'm finding, as my agent has always pointed out, that I defy categorization.  What type of work do I produce, anyway?

Well, as far as short stories go, I've got traditional and literary, science fiction, mystery, fantasy, western, horror . . . even romance.  And even among these genres, I'm difficult to stereotype.  Editors have always pointed this out.  "Like your work," they'll say, "but this seems to be a hybrid of science fiction and horror."  "Very moving and touching story," some say, "but I'm not sure our readers would want to cry this hard."  "Send me more," others write, "but not so edgy . . . this is too eclectic."  "Very funny piece," they say. "Love your humor."

One editor, not long ago, even said she would publish one of my science fiction stories if I turned it into a novella (over 20,000 words), as she thought my 5,000 word tale wasn't long enough.  "You didn't write far enough into the piece," she said.  How long does it have to be?  She wants 20,000 words? Heck, I could give her 80,000, too! 

Writing fiction is also frustrating because, among the dozens of pieces I've had published, I always feel that my best work is sitting at home in a box or on a disk.  Why can't editors see that this story is superior to the one they published?  It's a mystery to me.  One, I think, I will never solve.  

Last week, in a lengthy phone conversation with my agent (thanks for representing me, Cynthia!), I discovered that I am the anomaly on her client list.  She wanted me to decide who I am as a writer.  What is my niche?  Do I write non-fiction in categories of self-help and religion?  Do I write theology?  Do I write history?  Do I write fiction?  And if so, is my concentration more on shorter forms or novels?  Do I write mysteries, thrillers, literary, romance?  Am I a humor writer?  Why do I write so much that is poignant or moving or personal or informational--but on the other hand write so much that is totally warped and off-the-wall insane?

The fact is, I know I defy categorization.  But that's just me.  Only a handful of people on this earth actually know me!  Most folks relate to me as either a stereotype, an image, an idea of a person (or pastor) or as someone they think they know.  But few know me.  I have always written what I want to write . . . every day.  And that's broad.  Just as my interests are broad.  Complex.  Just like me.

No, I defy categorization.

I'm as much at home doing research and writing history as I am writing an insane, spur-of-the-moment blog about hemorrhoids.  I can make my wife cry over a poem, or write one that can make her howl with laugher or cause her to threaten to disown me for my brutal honesty.  I write deep; I write shallow.  I write heart-felt; I write parody and satire.  I write novels of all variety and persuasion.  I have published pieces of history, works about cancer, helpful tips for couples planning a wedding/marriage, works on nature and science, personal observations about life, essays on fitness; I write columns, blogs, poetry, and slice-of-life.

I now have a sizeable mound of published work (and growing quickly) and a file cabinet full of published tear sheets.

In short . . . I guess I just write.  That's my category.  And how I would define myself beyond the concept of "writer" is anybody's guess. 

Categorization?  Heck, I'm still trying to figure ME out.  And writing is how I do it.   

1 comment:

Michelle Kallock Knight said...

in the provactive words of our confirmation students, Pastor Todd is just plaiN weird!