This is an excellent opportunity for budding writers, myself included. Most publishers will tell us not to submit until we have an idea of what they’re looking for. They want us to have a feel for their style. This isn’t always awesome for the writer, because just as often as a story doesn’t suit an editor, a magazine or a novel doesn’t suit us.
The magazine cover to the left is from Arkham Tales #1. It’s an excellent example of editor Nathan Shumate‘s taste, if you’re a writer looking for markets, and it’s a fine collection of short stories, if you’re just into the reading side of fiction.
Derek Rutherford’s Talking about Chet Baker, for instance, puts a dark twist on the myth of the Pied Piper, while Robert Masterson’s The Horrid Truth Below offers a modern, Lovecraftian look at what’s really in the subway tunnels. There’s more stories, too, and they’re yours, free, to keep forever. Just click the cover.
Now, if those are up your alley, then consider picking up a copy of Shumate’s latest project, Arcane magazine. It’s available for $2.99 for the Kindle, Nook, and in all other ebook formats at Smashwords, and for $7.99 in print, through Amazon or directly from Arcane. And if you’re going to submit fiction, keep the flavor of the stories from Arkham in mind.
A friend of mine recently started writing a novel, and this is the first time I haven’t discouraged him from this. He used to write things all the time, and they were–well, they reflected his imagination (a grim, foul place, to be sure) but they weren’t really publishable. He’d usually show me something he’d hand-written, and I’d read it, and that was that. We didn’t talk about craft or mechanics, because there was no point. He didn’t read.
He moved to Virginia. Got out of a really unhealthy relationship. Started talking about stuff he’d been reading–no idea why he started, but that’s not important. The next time he showed me his fiction, the missing ingredient was there. His paragraphs and scenes had obvious direction–something that had lacked before–and he did the occasional awesome sentence-level trick. It was worth discussing craft with him, all of a sudden, because (1, he’d show the interest in literature that a modern writer needs to be competitive, and (2, he’d obviously learned something from the books he’d been reading.
If you’re serious about selling fiction, you need to be a consumer of fiction. If you don’t read, you’re just clogging the slush pile and wasting an intern’s time. This is a harsh message to hear, I imagine, because what I’m essentially saying is that, no, you aren’t a snow-flake, no, your fiction isn’t going to be automatically be compelling, and yes, you have to practice before you can be professional in any capacity, especially in a market this competitive.
Pick up Arkham. Read it. See what modern horror writers are doing. What your contemporaries are doing. And if you like it, don’t stop there, because it won’t be enough. Drop the three bucks on an e-version of Arcane and learn something about your craft.