There’s something to be said for guidelines.Â They’re your blueprint for finding work, really.Â For beginning writers, following guidelines is as important as researching your markets, which is in no way to say they’re the same thing.Â You can read guidelines until the cows come home, but at some point you’ll want to grab a copy of the magazine in question to get a better idea of what they’re publishing,
Today, however, I want to take a minute to talk about anthology guidelines.Â Specifically, I want to talk about theme anthologies.Â In the past year, I’ve beenÂ invited to send in stories toÂ five different theme anthologies: Dead Set (a zombie antho), Supernatural Noir (you can probably figure that one out), andÂ three more I’m not allowed to discuss yet.Â Being approached for these sorts of things is pretty new to me, and it’s exciting.Â On one hand, it feels like a great expression of faith in my abilities as a writer.Â Ooh, these folks really want a story by me!
But then there’s the other hand, and that’s the one that I really enjoy.Â On the other hand, these theme anthologies really make you flex your brain matter.Â Supernatural Noir?Â I don’t know if I ever would have tried to write a story like that if I hadn’t been invited.Â A story I’m working on this week is the same sort of thing.Â I was invited to submit to something pretty far outside my comfort zone.Â Without that invite, it never would have occured to me to write something like this story.
And at the end of the day, that’s an important part of writing.Â So much of a writer’s life–especially at these opening stages when things are just starting to get going and words like “writing career” first start popping into your brain–is about writing what you want and just hoping you’ll be able to find a home for it later.Â It’s important to take these chances and step outside your comfort zone.Â They’ll help you grow.Â More importantly, if you want to make a living at this (man, I hope and pray I’ll be able to make a living at this), you want to be able to show editors that you’re flexible, that you’re somebody they can go to when they need something.Â That makes you valuable.Â And at the end of the day, valuable is something you want to be.
So take a look, and see what’s outside your comfort zone.Â Experiment.Â See if you can make something work.Â Maybe you’ll be surprised.Â At the very least, you’ll grow.