Killing “Plan B” (The Blog in Which Nicole Accepts Who and What She Is)

I apologize for not updating the blog very often lately (or, you know, updating with posts of a mostly-promotional nature). I was extremely busy doing promotion for the release of Children of No One, and I was — at the same time — in the process of finishing the first draft of a new, 37,000 word novella tentatively titled The New God.

I wanted to take a moment to share a little bit about where I am on this journey through the writing life, and — in particular — to celebrate a certain emotional goal I’ve achieved in the past few months.  For the first time ever,  I feel very comfortable with the path my writing career is taking.  I’m not talking about the success I’ve earned (although there has been some of that, lately).  I’m talking more about the fact that I’m more comfortable owning the reality that I’m primarily an author of horror fiction (or “dark fiction”, or “weird fiction”, or whatever happens to be the euphemism du jour).  I know who I am, and who I am not.  I know what I am, and what I am not.

For the foreseeable future, I’m not someone who will be penning an urban fantasy trilogy.

I’m not someone who will be writing a SF YA dystopia.

I could perform some variety of creative contortion and try to bend and twist my creative side to churn out something along those lines.  I might even land a book deal; I might be able to snag some of that Big Six Five -level success.

But I probably wouldn’t be able to hold on to that success.  It wouldn’t be sustainable.  Readers are shrewd.  They can tell when the author just isn’t into it, or if the author is a square peg that a publisher is trying to ram through a round hole.

I’m a horror/dark fiction/weird fiction author, and…here’s the kicker… proud to consider myself such.

It hasn’t always been that way, for me.

Honestly, for years I looked at the horror field with trepidation.  All the money/success/meaningful accolades seemed to be focused on the science fiction and fantasy fields.  Most observers would probably agree that a Hugo is considered more prestigious than a Stoker.  Big Six Five publishers have dedicated imprints for science fiction and fantasy.  The last dedicated Big Five imprint for horror died…what…about twenty years ago?  And, yeah, the horror field in pop culture has been pretty much decimated by a descent into schlock and self-parody.   I don’t know about you, but the last truly frightening American horror film I saw was Session 9.  Christ, that came out over ten years ago.

So, yeah, I had this sort of self-loathing for my field.   (“Take my genre…please!”)

I imagined all the cool kids were hanging out in science fiction and fantasy, and I wanted to be one of the cool kids.  (Actually, that might not be quite accurate — it might be less that I wanted to be a cool kid, and more that I was very anxious in pursuing my goals, and not all that sure that I wanted the “right” things.  It could just be that I had zero self-confidence, and looked around me to see what other people valued, and decided to value those things).

But ay, here’s the rub…

I have very little interest in SF and fantasy.  I have a teensy bit of interest in SF, actually (dark SF, of course).   But I’ve absolutely no interest in fantasy, in any of its various permutations.

My work is very dark, and is often (but not always) weird.

Reviewers use .gif files of cartoon characters staring wide-eyed, traumatized, and rocking in the fetal position to visually describe their response to my work.

I am who I am.  I’m not cheery.  Many of my characters are unsympathetic.  My way of looking at the world doesn’t leave a lot of room for happy bunnies and rainbows.

That’s just who I am.

And it’s okay to pursue who I am…because, as it turns out, I’m not half-bad at writing this sort of fiction.  Maybe the market for it is smaller than the market for escapist fare .  Maybe that just means I’ll have to be more prolific.  Write three or four or five books a year instead of one or two.

But, for the first time ever, I have some confidence that I can “make it” in this business by simply being my best self.  I feel that I can write what I want to write and still meet my financial goals, over the long haul.  Is it going to be easy?  No.  Nothing worth doing ever is.  Might I fail?  Sure.  But…for the first time…I’m fueled with enough confidence to give it my best try.

And that, my friends, is sooooo important.  I was raised in a blue collar family where artistic aspirations weren’t taken seriously.  I went to college during a recession and was encouraged to leave with a degree that would serve as a passport to some sort of stable profession.  I was almost embarrassed to consider myself a writer.  It seemed like an affectation.  A flighty self-indulgence.

Many folks discuss the fact that they have a “Plan B” for what happens if the writing gig doesn’t work out.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  My problem, though, was that I lived Plan B and barely even admitted that I really wanted Plan A.  And even my “Plan A” wasn’t my real plan A.  It was the Plan A that I thought I should have (pursuing SF &F) rather than the Plan A I really wanted (pursuing a career in horror).

Well, fuck that.

In my case, “Plan B” is just another term for “fear”.  And while fear drives my fiction, it no longer drives me.  Plan B, line up for the firing squad.  You are akin to the despot who has been overthrown.  You have been found guilty of crimes against the imagination.  Have you nothing to say in your own defense?

No?

Very well then…

Ready…

Aim…

Fire.

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Posted on April 9, 2013, in Self-Assessment, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Actually, even Science Fiction, Fantasy and Urban Fantasy are all small potatoes compared to Romance and its spawn. This is why Twilight is a giant among genre sales, it’s Romance invading another genre and creating Paranormal Romance. Which is a small subset of Romance, but still a huge force in book sales these days.

    Cheers to you for knowing what you want to write and sticking to it. I LIKE writing Urban Fantasy (supernatural thrillers) and Science Fiction. I may someday write in other offshoots of these genres. My supernatural thrillers were called horror by Sara, though if so, they’re pretty light horror compared with some of my peers’ work. I like having horrific and comedic elements in all my stories, but neither is my main focus.

    Keep on doing what you do well, Nicole, and embrace the dark and the weird. It’s how I get hugs. 😉

  2. nicolecushing

    Chris:

    I hear ya! I think writing U.F. or S.F. is totally great — as long as it’s the kind of work you’re truly passionate about. Readers will pick up on the passion and it’ll be contagious!

    ( I just don’t think it’s a good idea for someone who has a heart for horror fic to try to wedge him/herself into U.F. for the sake of making the sale….I think it’s possible to snag a book deal that way, but if it’s not what you’re really passionate about then it can be a poor fit and readers pick up on it.)

    You’re right about romance, too. Romance is EXTREMELY popular. I think there was U.F. before long before Twilight (I think you can trace it back to Buffy and Charmed, in pop culture), but Twilight’s obviously one of the more successful examples of the genre.

    • I think Charles DeLint wrote some of the earliest U.F. I ever read. And Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files has been huge in that arena in the past 10+ years. I didn’t mean U.F. was founded by Twilight, I meant “Paranormal Romance” is a symptom of Romance invading Horror and bringing its base along with it, causing a center-of-mass shift in other genres. Sort of.

  3. Very well said. Without knowing your place as a writer it’s easy to flounder.
    On an unrelated note, I just received my contrib copies of Polluto #10. Looking forward to reading “The Peculiar Salesgirl”.

  4. Three cheers to that! From what I’ve read of your stuff so far, it’s of great quality, and you’re obviously passionate about horror. There’s enough ‘paranormal YA’ writers out there, and not enough weird fiction ones of a decent calibre, so stick with it…

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