I had an accidental writing conversation with a stranger today. I was on my lunch break, in the food court, at the bar-like bench around the giant tacky fireplace, and I'd brought my notebook with me. I was working on the fourth Triad story, and was hammering out some dialog, which must have made it obvious I was working on a tale, because the man beside me asked, "Writing a story?"
I said I was, and he asked if I often did that, and was it a hobby, and I answered amiably enough that yes I often did this, and actually I'd been published a few times.
"You've written a book?" he asked, interested.
"Short stories," I said.
"Oh," he said, and all interest was gone. "You should write a book."
I've had this conversation in various forms quite often, actually. Sometimes well intentioned and accidentally brusque, I've been asked "When are you going to really write, and do a novel?" Also: "Be careful about writing erotica - you'll end up stuck in that genre!" Obvious pun about stickiness aside, I like writing erotica. It's fun, and - believe it or not - quite challenging. Especially if you're lucky enough to get some great and unusual anthology themes to work with (Jerry Wheeler is amazing at that, by the way.) Either out and about - or in the pipeline - I've had or will have three nonfiction pieces, eight erotic fiction stories and ten non-erotic fiction stories. I'm proud of all of them, and am pleased when any call hits my in-box; it's a chance to be creative. I've also often had "You'll never be taken seriously until you write a novel."
Thank goodness "being taken seriously" is not on my to-do list. I never started writing thinking I'd be the next Giller Prize winner. I'm not that naive. I enjoy writing - and I do love it when I get a piece of mail or feedback from a reader or editor - but I write gay fiction - usually with a slice of magic or psychic tossed in. I've worked in a bookstore for many years. I've seen many literary awards. You know what doesn't end up winning literary awards? Short stories about gay psychics.
And that's fine by me. That bookstore job is my full-time job. Writing is part-time (but very much another job.)
So when I'm told I should do something to be taken seriously, I generally smile and let it slide. The suggestion is meant to be encouraging, not dismissive. Skip the erotica. Skip the short stories. Write a novel. Be taken seriously.
The funny part is I am actually working on a novel. It's fluffy, and (hopefully) funny, a bit romantic, and is about a telepathic psychokinetic massage therapist who is trying to save Pride Week.
Seriously. Or, well, no - not seriously - lightheartedly. But that is what it's about. For all that I do enjoy tugging a heartstring or two ("Heart" and "Elsewhen" being the biggest offenders), if I'm going to write a novel - which involves a much longer time-frame of these characters occupying my mind - I'm going to write something fun. Something light.
Actually, LIGHT is also the working title.
In the meanwhile, I'm quite happy to write short stories - not being taken seriously is just an added benefit.