I Don’t Read That: Rejection, Feral Fiction, and Publishing

I Don’t Read That: Rejection, Feral Fiction, and Publishing
  1. I Don’t Read That: Rejection, Feral Fiction, and Publishing
  2. Introducing Cosmorans: Appearance
  3. The Incredible Freedom of a Supportive Reader Community

CW: mention of family estrangement

I had no idea how soft I really was.

I think I was eighteen when I started attending a writing group made up of my fellow NaNoWriMo participants. Certainly it was a little more than a decade ago. Most of those participants were my friends, the first real friends I had ever made. Many of them are still my friends now; supportive, fun, creative people I’m very glad to know.

But we were all a lot younger back then. And I was a lot more vulnerable. I was still hurting from my recent estrangement from my family a few years before. Still trying to work out who I was in the midst of that. I thought of myself as hard-hearted and thick-skinned. Told myself I had to be, to succeed. To survive. I had no idea how soft I really was.

This writing group? Mostly a critique group. Every week or so, we’d get together in the library over tea and toasties and share what we’d been working on. It was largely short stories, as we didn’t want to over-burden anyone with too large a project. The feedback was very mixed; though we were all SFF writers of one stripe or another, we actually wrote very different things. With very different hearts. I took the good and the bad and tried to make it a part of me. Tried to learn from it all and come out stronger. I didn’t yet know that the world was not separated into good writers who give good critique and bad writers who give bad critique. Sometimes critics just aren’t well-matched with the work.

One day I thought I would bring a piece of my heart to the writing group. I’d completed a novel. Written it. Re-written it. Edited it many times. It wasn’t the first novel I’d completed but it was the first I’d really believed in. It was called Darkbeast and it was a story for older children or younger teens. A dark fantasy about a black dog who befriends a unicorn, throwing the mythical world into chaos.

‘I don’t read anthro.’

I only sent in the first chapter for critique. I didn’t want to overwhelm anybody and the length was very reasonable in comparison to the short stories we’d otherwise been submitting. I expected it to be torn apart, as was the way. I hoped someone might like it anyway.

As it turned out … nobody read it. I think one person had but didn’t know how to critique it. As for the others … well, as one writer succinctly put it, ‘I don’t read anthro.’

It was just … unread. I’d thought I had prepared for rejection. I was wrong.

But I was tough, or so I told myself. I worked on it more. I sent it to various critique circles and competitions online. Got shredded to pieces by strangers on the internet. I made it tighter, stronger, better. I got a request from an agent out of one of those competitions before I’d even begun to query. I dared to hope. I sent it out to agents.

All of the feedback was pretty much the same. ‘This is good. This is interesting. This is well-written. I don’t know who it’s for. I don’t know who would want to read this.’ Or, as I heard echoing in my memory, ‘I don’t read anthro.’

It was a message I would hear a lot throughout my life. I’ve talked about it before, in other posts — I’d hear it about asexual protagonists, about autistic POVs. ‘I can’t relate. I don’t know who this is for.’

But while those times struck to the core of my identity, I was older when I heard them. I knew myself better. I knew that there had to be someone out there like me.

But feral fiction? That wasn’t necessarily who I was. It’s just something I loved and wanted to write. I took it as a sign and decided to never write about creature characters ever again. There was no market for it, after all. Or so I’d been told.

I can find my own audience.

Fast forward a decade. I’ve written increasingly weird stories. Increasingly queer stories, too. I’ve published three books and some people even enjoyed them. I’ve started to realise that I don’t have to worry what traditional publishers think will or won’t have a market. I can find my own audience.

And I decided, following the release of Non-Player Character, that cosy fantasy fiction is kind of my thing. I decided to take it further. I decided to write a slice-of-life fantasy novel. I decided to take it further still, and make it a space fantasy, or fantasy with a touch of science fiction. I decided to make it just as queer, just as autistic, just as much of everything I had been told wasn’t relatable and wouldn’t sell. I think those things are genuinely really important.

But I also decided, as a treat to myself, that I would write feral fiction. In memory of that first novel that nobody bothered to read. This time for adults. This time just as weird as my weird little heart.

I can’t wait to tell you more about them.

Will it find it’s audience? I don’t know. I’m a little scared about it, to be honest. I feel like it’s too many niches overlaid. An ever-tightening spiral. I’m struggling to find things to compare it to. But so far, it’s good. I believe it will be more than good enough, if I put in the time. And I’m absolutely loving writing it.

So without further ado, I’m delighted to announce that my current WIP (working title: Avari) is a slice of life feral space fantasy with a queer autistic protagonist who is also a giant flaming cosmic goat.

I can’t wait to tell you more about them, their story, and their world.

This post, like all my work, is made with thanks to my supporters on ko-fi. If you’d like to support my writing, streaming, and creation, please do consider tipping or getting a membership.

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