"Unfortunately, It's Just Not Right for Us" - Rejected Because the Story Needs Work or in the Wrong Market?
Should I be writing about werewolves and vampires and (cough) faeries? I hate that shit. It's overdone. Cliche. But is trying so damn hard to be original holding me back? Should I be writing the same old stories everybody else is? I've thought about it--I could take any number of Stephen King stories and insert my own characters and it would probably work, but I've read sooooo much King and so has everybody else that I really want to see something different out there. I've always wanted to be original. But it's hard. Each story I write takes on ambitious subjects (at least they are to me) and writing them takes time and energy and is a struggle--I like it that way. But I've found most publications are not looking for originality--they're looking for that certain "niche" or "type" of story to publish. What if I write something weird and it's really well-written and the characters are interesting and flawed and the story arc has a perfect beginning, middle, and end, but it's not a traditional horror story? Where do I submit this story for publication? What the hell do I do with it? Do I have to put it aside, after all the hard work I've put into it, and convince myself I'll see it someday in my short story collection and forget about it? It's always been important to me to be original and different (sometimes to a fault as I go off the deep end trying to come up with ideas that end up being too nonsensical to work) and it's not easy.
Sometimes, the best stories are those where an idea is sparked from reading something and the idea is taken and written in one's own personal style. If you read a lot of short stories in the horror genre, you'll find many repeats of the same basic ideas, but as long as each is told a little differently and characters are developed into real and interesting people, each story has its merits and we enjoy each one. Besides, "originality", like a lot of these terms we all like to throw around so casually, is not a concrete term; it is abstract, difficult to define. Originality is the "creating of unique style and substance" (Wikipedia) and, if we hold to this definition, we are free to see it in a lot of ways.
Anyway, I'm not trying to claim my own work as to being entirely unique and original--I'm only trying to be myself and write what I like to write. I'm also not trying to claim I've figured out the perfect balance of flawed but relate-able characters, perfect story arcs, and language (if anything, I get too caught up in language trying to be a "good writer" and poetic and create unique metaphors and creepy moments, loosing sight of the story); I'm just trying to say that it is difficult to write something that is "different" and get it published.