Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Good, right, saleable

My last angsty friends-locked post seems to have generated a variety of different responses, based on what people thought I was getting at. Here's the thing: I have three different axes for judging the work I'm doing. They're not entirely orthogonal, but they also aren't the same thing. There's good, there's right, and there's saleable.

Saleable is the easiest because you can (eventually) prove it. Did someone give me money for this piece? Then it must be saleable. QED. Is it 18,000 words of distinctly adult fantasy, and has it been rejected by three markets already? Possibly not very saleable.

Right is easy for me to judge in here and impossible for you to judge out there. Right has to do with how it all feels as I'm doing it. Right is when the words are flowing and everything is fitting together. Right may not sing on the page, but it will sing in my fingers.

Good is when the finished piece, with as objective a gaze as I can muster, has a range of positive attributes. You're going to have to judge good for yourself. It's going to vary, but there will be common features. The plot will make sense. The character motivations will be internally consistent and externally not too psycho without a reason. Etc.

I can swear to you that there are pieces that felt right but were neither good nor saleable. (This is where the phrase "murder your darlings" comes from: just because it flows out of you doesn't mean that anyone else should have to step in it. Bad writers get in grooves, too. And some good writers get in bad grooves from time to time.) There are pieces that look good to me but have not sold so far and were stone bitches to write. And while I hope not to do too many pieces in the category of "saleable but not good or right," I have read enough professionally published pieces of utter crap in the last few months to know that saleable-but-no-good is a thriving category, and I'd be willing to believe that some authors sweated their butts off for every word of those sold stories.

The problem when things aren't feeling right is that you-all can point at my bibliography page if you want to prove I can sell stories, and you can point at a story of mine and tell me things you liked/respected about it if you want to prove I can write good stories, but you can't make things feel right as I'm writing them. (Can you? Because if you can, be my guest.)

Things look a little better than they did when I was whinging under friends-lock. I've worked on Thermionic Night in a productive direction. This morning I had bits of "Carter Hall Sweeps a Path" come out against my will, and I've worked well (er, "rightly"?) on "Swimming Back from Hell by Moonlight" and "Singing Them Back."

I'm not going to have "Singing Them Back" finished by Christmas, so those of you who wanted a copy will just have to wait. Sorry.

Oh, and one more thing: markgritter and I are heading for Omaha tomorrow morning and returning Sunday. I will be on e-mail there. I may or may not post to lj or read other people's posts right away. Have a merry Christmas if you want one. Otherwise have a good weekend.
Tags: full of theories

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