I’ve been thinking about stories a lot lately. Ha ha! You’re a writer, of course you think of stories, you (do not) say. I mean stories as a concept.
I sent my first manuscript to the publishers in the Autumn. This is not monumental to anyone but myself. In Finland there are no literary agents who need to be applied to first. For such a small country and language we have an enormous amount of publishers. The process still goes that a writer writes a manuscript, scribbles a cover letter and sends it directly to the publishing houses. Where it will gather dust (or in my case, as I sent it in as a file, some sort of equivalent of data dust – micro mites? I’ve no idea) until one of the editors gives it a cursory glance, checks the email address on the top and sends you a rejection email (I received one today so please allow my negativity). Or if you’re very very lucky, or have had something published earlier, they might read it through and give it a chance.
So stories as a concept is something I need to consider when I write my cover letter. Preferrably earlier. What genre do I write for, who is my intended reader? Will anyone else but me want to read what I write? These are not things I think of while I write, but there’s so much more writing adjacent process involved in writing a novel that the thoughts cross my mind more and more often.
Two of my friends and my dad read my manuscript last Autumn and gave me feedback. I was taking part in an Instagram challenge about my writing at the moment and when asked which genre I wrote to, it was really hard to answer. My friends confirmed my fears. My stories are hard to put in a certain genre. I write that with regret and trepidation, not with glee. Because it’ll make getting a publisher that much harder.
I’ve also thought a lot about the fact that there are so many things in our lives that won’t happen because we have never heard the story before. Stories follow rules and ruts and I remember reading something by Terry Pratchett that described stories as something that follow deep grooves ploughed into the terrain of our lives. Or a river into which all water flows. And I get it. Stories are the things that make us human, how we can learn from other people’s stories and move knowledge on to someone else about our own life. But what about those stories that don’t get told? The stories that exist, but are not common enough to carve a permanent channel?
In media there’s a lot of talk about the narrative and how diversity in narrative is what spreads understanding and acceptance. I totally agree. But in our commercial world that is not how things ultimately work.
Oh well, I don’t know if I’m making any sense. I don’t even think what I write is so different. It may be that it is just on the verge of not being different enough. But I’m going to keep writing the stories that come to my mind. Maybe one day someone will enjoy reading them.
Last night in a random tweet I defined my stories as ‘unlikely’. I guess that’s exactly what they are. I proclaim I want to found a new genre: Unlikely Stories.