So as part of the Dancing Monkey series, Chris Slee asked
What have you always wanted to write but haven’t because a) it would never sell and b) it would be socially unacceptable?
Okay, let me see if I can formulate an answer to this that doesn’t involve gleeful, if slightly diabolical, laughter. My track record is actually pretty good when it comes to finding a concept that seems utterly unsellable and still finding a way to make money out of it. I mean, let us look at the list of stories I thought were utterly unsalable that then went on to actually make me a fair chunk of change:
Unicorns and underage pornography? Sold.
Thinly veiled erotica about John Flamsteed saving the world by shagging aliens? Sold
Werewolf stories with a meandering, non-werewolf plot? Sold.
A convoluted story-within-a-story about a tragedy where nothing much happens? Sold, and reprinted in a year’s best to boot.
I mean, Jesus, a story with a goddamn talking cat? Sold.
I’ve actually hit a point where thinking “I can’t write this, it’ll never get published” is usually a sign that I should just get on with things and write the damn the story, since pretty much everything I’ve ever assumed would be unpublishable ended up seeing the light of day somewhere.
As for the stuff that’s socially unacceptable…well, lets just say that anyone saying “you can’t publish this kind of work” is like waving a red flag at a bull. My first instinct is to prove the person wrong, and I’ll bang away at a story until I do so.
On the other hand, there is stuff that I occasionally write and stop writing because I find the subject matter to be unpalatable. There’s a half-finished story on my hard-drive called “Never Fall In Love With A Dead Girl” that I stalled out on because I realised it was really just a metaphor for date rape and I wasn’t all that interested in having that associated with my work. One of the stories I’m working on right now is all about the male gaze and doesn’t, near as I can tell, question or interrogate it in any way. This, too, is something I’m not particularly keen to be associated with, although I’m going to try a redraft on this one and see if I can make it work
I’m not going to say that I write for myself – I don’t, ’cause I enjoy being read and I enjoy being paid for writing and I truly do enjoy getting the opportunity to chat to people, be they readers or other writers, I wouldn’t otherwise talk to if we hadn’t met as a result of my writing. That said, there’s still enough of the rebellious kid who listened to punk-rock in me that the only person I’m really bothered about shocking or disturbing is myself, and if the history of the arts have taught us anything, it’s that you can do okay as a creative type by creating things that bother people.
I guess what I am saying is this: I’m okay with bothering people. I just like to be able to look myself in the eye afterwards.
And as creative guidelines go, I’m more-or-less okay with that.