September 11, 2011

WRITING ADVICE – Kristine Kathryn Rusch #3: “Risk Taking”

I first ran across the work of Kristine Kathryn Rusch when her name appeared on the bottom of a standard rejection form I got from The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, where she was head editor for several years. A short time later, I ran across one of her short stories (“Retrieval Artist” in the June 2000 ANALOG), which of course, led me t0 her RETRIEVAL ARTIST novels. I’m a fan now and started reading her blog a year or so ago. As always, I look for good writing advice to pass on to you as well as applying it to my own writing. I have her permission to quote from the articles. You can find the complete article referenced below, here:


It has many faces.

Liz took a huge risk when she chose to do aggressive chemotherapy to combat her breast cancer. After five months, she feels better than she’s felt in a long time – and she’s still going through the “post-infusion cycle” of symptoms that have followed the other five chemo sessions.

My daughter took a huge risk when she left a comfortable college in a small town to come to a small college smack dab in the center of Minneapolis – because she needed a greater academic challenge and she needed the energy imbued by city-life.

I had a risky choice as well: at one point I had tried out for and was invited to join a band that would travel in the area. I was also accepted into a group that would perform in the US then leave for the West African countries of Nigeria, Cameroun and Liberia at the invitation of the national Lutheran churches of each country. The first would have left me home. The other led me to a coup d’etat, an attemped coup d’etat, malaria and the loss of 100 pounds. Had I not taken the risk, I would not be the person I am today.

When I first began to write, I wanted to do science fiction. That was all. It was what I read for, trained for and bought books for. As time went on, I tried other kinds of writing – mostly for children. For me, that was a risk. I didn’t HAVE kids. I didn’t read children’s books and I had no idea if I could do it effectively.

Turns out, I could.

Like Kristine Kathryn Rusch (who writes science fiction, fantasy, romance, literary and adventure fiction as well as non-fiction) I have diversified. I have written historical fiction for children, contemporary fiction for teens, science fiction for children, non-fiction for young children and articles on writing. For each risky step into diversity, I had to plan carefully and read extensively. The historical short story that was published came from a novel that has not been published. Hundreds of hours of research and travel and reading tedious, dull journals led to a single story that was 1500 words long and an article that was less than 200 words. The file sits in my cabinet, waiting for…I don’t know what. I’m thinking of making it into a time travel story. Therein lay another risk.

Writing is a risk – especially if you write what you like instead of trying to write to catch the wave. But that is another issue entirely and not one that jumps off from Kristine Rusch’s essay. It was specifically about becoming a full-time freelance writer, I am nowhere near that point yet, though I make enough to supplement my income. In fact, little of it actually has to do with STORIES. I have no novel out yet, but I sell my expertise in writing to teach young people and I speak on the subject to young people. And lest you “pooh-pooh” these kinds of efforts, I can point to the fact that one of my students had a short story accepted into a “real” market – one that turned down my own story!


No comments: