"Notorious" is one of the two theme songs for the staff at my day job. The other one is Don Henley's "Dirty Laundy."
Yes, I do work for a media company. Why do you ask?
Anyway, today is ledger reconcilation. Thankfully, I've written a pretty little spreadsheet that does all the math automagically, and now it's just data entry. I flunked Algebra, so of course I find myself the office Quickbooks guru.
What does all this have to do with writing? Not a damned thing. Let's get this back on topic, shall we?
I want to talk about challenging yourself. I'm developing a theory--based mostly on reading slush, and reading submissions on the workshop, and seeing what gets published and what doesn't.... that what sells is the challenging stuff. The stuff that maybe we didn't think we were ready to write, or knew how to write, but we did it anyway. The stuff that comes from down deep.
Read a great interview with David Hartwell of TOR today (thanks, Jaime, for the link) and I was really delighted by his wit. And the fact that he's looking for writers with a grounding in the tradition of SFF. I see so much stuff that makes it plain to me that the writers haven't bothered to read widely.
Here's a thing: if you don't have time to read widely, there's no point in writing. Because somebody else has said it already.
It's also important, as Celia keeps saying, to look for the new idea. But you won't be able to spot the new idea until you know what all the old ideas look like.
I'm almost tempted to say that I've realized if I'm comfortable writing something, I should throw it out.