Monday, June 6, 2011

Writing That Isn't Written Rotten, Just Misunderstood....Sometimes

I am basically a Johnny Come Extremely Lately when it comes to reading e-zines. Lets face it, I really didn't know what an e-zine was until I started blogging in 2008 (hell, I didn't even know what a blog was until I started blogging). Having said that, I now read two e-zines and two e-zine style blogs on a pretty consistent basis, and because I've managed to retain my personal quirk of being a floater among the many things that I like, I can look at things with a more critical eye and greater detachment than most people.

Like the content of the aforementioned zines/blogs.

To save everyone a bit of confusion on just exactly who and what I'm talking about, here are the zines/blogs in question that I read on a daily/weekly basis (depending on their publishing frequency).

Beat To A Pulp
The Flash Fiction Offensive
Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers
The Cynic Magazine

How I came to read them is pretty straightforward: Beat To A Pulp was the first publisher anywhere to take a chance on a story of mine; The Flash Fiction Offensive featured a story by Edward Grainger and I stayed afterwards; Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers was recommended by so many people that I had to check it out; and Cynic is the second publisher that decided to take a chance on me.

For the most part, when I read those e-zines, I usually don't go beyond that. Not because of some deep rooted need to be the ever popular Anonymous, but simply because if I were to offer my honest opinion/feedback on a story, I'm not quite sure how it would be received. I do know that the few times I've left comments on stories (mostly at BTAP, only one at TKC and FFO, and Cynic doesn't allow), I got the distinct feeling that I was either intruding or showing my ignorance to everyone.

So I basically show up, read the stories, wonder why people make the comments that they make on those stories, and move along without offering an opinion, because honestly, as much as I like to be different, being the only sour fish in a pool of positivity is not how I want to make an impression in a particular part of the Cyber World (and yes, this means I've even stopped using the word "interesting" as a comment to describe my displeasure with a story).

Writers are very unique and exceptional creatures of habit. I've found over the past couple of years that most writers are very gung ho about other writers who write in the same genre that they write in. Whether it be YA, romance, mystery, crime, western, what have you, my observations has been pretty spot on. While I'm not saying that's a bad thing, because a writer should support a fellow writer when the need arises, sometimes being perpetually gung ho about a genre can turn off the casual or drive-by reader from delving deeper into that genre.

Now I consider myself, as it applies to fiction of any type and/or length, to be one of those casual readers. I never really got into fiction while I was younger. Probably when I first developed a true appreciation for reading, which was around my daughter's age (10), I naturally migrated towards one main genre: non fiction.

Being both the naturally inquisitive and somewhat intelligent sort of person that I was, I found non-fiction to be the be all to end all in my reading horizons. To be honest with everyone, I very rarely touched fiction. How rare? Prior to blogging (2008), the amount of fiction novels that I've read probably numbered around 60, the bulk of which were pulpish westerns that my grandfather had that I enjoyed reading (once I got done thumbing through his issues of Playboy) and the rest scattered historical fiction serials/fantasy serials of various lengths. And yes, this covers about thirty years of reading.

Fast forward to now. Now is reading the various e-zines and the well written stories contained within and asking myself, "Am I missing something here?"

I read the story and I appreciate the fact that it's well written, but that's about all I can appreciate. I don't get the same feeling that the rest of the commenters get in that the stories simply don't resonate or touch me in the same way; and sometimes, the story can fly so far over my head in some particular way that I'm simply turned off by it. As a matter of fact, there are a quite a few stories in which people have made a wicked fuss over, so after checking them out to see what all that fuss was, I wind up sitting there scratching my head and asking myself that question in the preceding paragraph.

So let me ask everyone a question: in order to truly appreciate the type of stories that are often found in the first three e-zines listed (the last seems to be more in tune to my particular wavelength of fiction) does it help that one writes in that type of genre extensively? Because I don't write in any of the genres that are contained in those e-zines, and there are some stories out there that in my opinion do not live up to the hype given to them.

I would like to point out that in keeping with my personal rule of not specifically criticizing a particular writer's hard work (although I was very tempted to offer specific examples), I've only made general observations of what I'd read in the past three years, so this post is really about a casual reader's general observations on what he pursues for reading material and nothing else.


  1. See you are ahead of me. I don't know the difference between a blog and an ezine. I guess an ezine is profitable.haha

  2. I'm enjoying many ezines these days.

  3. I haven't read any e-zines, and probably won't ever do so. I am EXTREMELY picky about my fiction, and can browse through a bookstore or library for an hour before I find one book that I'd like to continue reading. I tend to stick to famous, award-winning authors because it saves me sorting through a lot of chaff to find the wheat. Once I joined a workshop group for amateur novelists, and I found the experience excruciating. I think I'd rather poke my own eyes out with skewers rather than listen to hours of poorly-written fiction followed by weak criticisms ever again. There was simply no hope in that room. :-p

  4. Bearman: For the most part, e-zines are only profitable in terms of readership. There are some out there who do offer payment of some kind, but mostly, they offer a chance for new and established writers to get their work out to the public in the easiest way possible.

    Charles: I have no doubt. The four that I'd listed are the only ones that I read with any kind of regularity

    ExtraO: E-zine is short for Electronic magazine. Just like an e-book, its the heir apparent the pulpy/short story magazines that used to dot the landscape when were kids. There are still print story magazines out there, but e-zines are the place to go if you're a new writer trying to establish your voice. No matter what you write, chances are that there's an e-zine for it.

    S.R.: I'm very picky about my fiction as well, although less so with short stories than full length stuff.

    Sometimes you have to suffer for your work if you want to get better at it. Perhaps you should try a workshop that has writers with a little bit more expirience under their belts.

  5. C'mon, give us the specific examples!

  6. R: I can't do that. I do have a few scruples, of which one is not specifically criticizing someone else's hard work, especially if its well written.

    All I can suggest is to check out the links that I'd listed and search their archives.

  7. I don't read fiction so they wouldn't appeal to me really.

  8. Joe: Fiction is a tough thing to read and get into.

    Non-fiction was what I grew up on and non-fiction is still my genre of choice to fall back on when I can't find anything in fiction to read.

  9. I think it's all so subjective. It reminds me of books that get huge build-up and press and people love them and I read them and I'm left scratching my head. Not always, but quite often.

    But I really enjoy reading stories written in genres completely removed from what I write. To me, a good tale is always a good tale -the same can be sad for a bad tale, too :)

    I've tried everything to read your story, G, on The Cynic, but the link on their site draws a blank for me - on your story and all the others. Frustrating!

  10. That's just not an easy question if you don't write yourself, I think.

  11. Talon: I can certainly understand that.

    A good story can often transcend the genre its written .

    Sometimes though, I have problems in understanding a story written in a particular genre. Frustrating to be sure, which is why I don't comment as much when I do read those e-zines

    In regards to the other issue, I sent you a little something via the e-mail that should solve the problem.

    Lynn: True, but if you don't write and enjoy a good story, shouldn't you be able to understand a particular story to begin with?


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