Write what you know / write what they know.
Look around to see who has just published a book in your genre that is doing well NOW. This will show you what the market is currently handling. If a story is in a magazine, it is good. They had to go through the same submission process you have. Look at what they did. How does it differ from yours? How is it the same?
I’ve been trying to take this advice. I look at novels published by a publishing house I am interested in, and many times I shake my head. It’s hard.
Since I submitted to an anthology recently, I decided to read one (I’ve never read an anthology before). I was surprised. The stories were more like excerpts than stand-alone stories, and two of them ended in a way that actually made me mad. (No ending)
Was I going to write my short like that? No way!
Also, people have noted lack of emotion in my characters. So I look for emotion in recently published work, and Dang it I can’t find any! I mean, I get an idea of how they feel, and I think I am doing the same thing. Ugh. I just don’t know sometimes.
It’s really hard to read something and translate it into your own work… But when I do read something I like, I highlight it for reference later. I do try to learn from anything good that I read. But I learn even more from the bad stuff I read :-)
Note: The above are Jon Gibb’s main speaking points, with my rambling opinions attached.
Jon Gibbs is the author of one of my son’s favorite books: FUR-FACE, which was nominated for a Crystal Kite Award.
Jon is an Englishman transplanted to New Jersey, USA, where he is an ‘author in residence’ at Lakehurst Elementary School. Jon is the founding member of The New Jersey Author’s Network and FindAWritingGroup.com.
Jon blogs at jongibbs.livejournal.com