Story Inspiration Sundays


I’ve spent the last week on the Oregon Coast, at a writing workshop. It’s actually been more business than craft, as I’ve been attending the anthology workshop.

After listening to six different editors opinions on 40+ professionally written stories, I can tell you that this post is absolutely true. You could have five editors all say, “Loved this story. Would have bought it.” Then the editor with the checkbook, who could actually buy the story, say, “Nope. Didn’t like it. Doesn’t fit.”

One of the things that was also very interesting was hearing an editor say, “I don’t like X in my stories,” such as carnival stories, stories where children are endangered, stories with magical snowmen, etc. Which would prompt me, the writer, to think, “Okay, don’t send that type of story to that editor.”

Then the next story, that editor would say, “I don’t like X in my stories. This one was so well done I would buy it anyway.”

One of the other interesting things was hearing stories about editors who reject a story, and then, two-three years later, receiving an email that says, “I just can’t get that story out of my head, have you sold it? Can I have it?”

So again, I agree with this post. There is no perfect story. You are never going to write a story that is a guaranteed sale to a market. For that matter, even if you are invited to write in an anthology, there’s still not guarantee that the editor won’t reject the story and tell you to rewrite it or submit something else.

But beyond the networking that I’ve done here, and all the things I’ve learned, one of the reasons I come to these workshops is because these people are my people. This is my family. I adore these people, and despite the exhaustion, they’re still clever and fun.

And that’s the inspiration part of this post. (See? I knew I could get there.)

Writers can be very witty. And at something like this, they generate inside jokes as well as lots of pithy sayings.

So I will leave you with a few of the key phrases that may or may not inspire some kind of story idea in you!

–Ringo Starr: Serial killer (Detective noticing connection between all the cities the Beatles toured and a string of mysterious deaths…)
–The Attack of the Lurking Theme
–Rejectomancy – Authors studying rejection letters to determine patterns in order to predict future behavior
–The Invincible Monkey Tailor
–Zombie Husband? No problem! Just break off the good bits.
–The Snark Muffin
–The Nicest Evil Dragon
–Strangling the Pink Rabbit




Story Inspiration Sundays — 4 Comments

  1. Eons ago, in the comic strip Shoe, the Perfessor is sitting at his desk with an oversized manuscript in an envelope, typing the cover letter, which says something on the lines of “Enclosed is my latest blockbuster for immediate publication.” He hasn’t even pulled the letter from the typewriter when Muffy Hollandaise, the secretary, comes up behind him with a letter. The Perfessor opens it: a “thanks but no thanks” letter from the publisher, signed Joyce Barnmouth, Rejectionist.

    Every writer I’ve ever met believes that there is a Rejectionist. And yet…

    • That actually happened to me. Terry Carr read a first draft of “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand” at an early Clarion West workshop and asked me to send it to him when it was done. He edited the prestigious anthology series UNIVERSE. A few weeks later, when I was about to send the finished story to him, he sent me a postcard saying he’d changed his mind and didn’t need to see it again.

      I sold the story to Analog. One reviewer gave it a bad review because “It should have been in F&SF.” It became the first chapter of Dreamsnake.

      Terry ended up publishing the story in his Best of the Year collection.

      I never did sell him anything for Universe.

  2. My first story sale ever was to Marion Zimmer Bradley.

    It had a thief protagonist trying to steal from dragons.

    Which is to say it hit two of her pet peeves.

    • Ha ha – and then Harry Potter came along and did it on a broomstick. Eatcherheartout, Bilbo Baggins!