I (finally) wanted to step away from the usual process stuff we talk about here—structure, dialogue, characters, editing, and so on—to talk about another important part of the process.
When we’re looking to find that partner for life—or, y’know, maybe just for the weekend—these apps can be phenomenal. They’re not perfect, no, but they can save a lot of time by, well… weeding out a lot of folks that aren’t going to work for me. For whatever reason. Maybe I have some really firm personal philosophies. Perhaps I know exactly what kind of relationship I’m looking for right now. Maybe, hey, there’s a certain body type I prefer—or one I don’t. Regardless of what my criteria are, whether they’re right or wrong, these apps can help whittle down my prospects to a manageable size by matching me up with the people who meet my requirements.
Okay, look. Clearly there can be basic misunderstandings now and then. She said she likes football, I said “hey, I like football,” but it turns out she meant soccer and okay, well… this was awkward. Sorry I scheduled our first date during the World Cup.
Or maybe it was a little more deliberate. Maybe I realized I get a lot better matches when my profile says I’m six foot even and 179 pounds with a thick head of dark hair. Which, for the record, is a 100% accurate description of me that I’m just using for this example. Except then we finally meet face to face and now I can’t hide that, okay, yeah, I’m closer to 5’9” and 225 pounds (look, lockdown was very stressful) with a silver-gray widow’s peak that’s pulled back a bit over the past decade or so. But I have a great personality and I’m sure… well, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if the matchee wasn’t too interested when they finally saw me. They might even be justifiably annoyed. I mean, they spent time looking for a good match on this app.
Hell, maybe I’m just going to be kind of obnoxious about it and rationalize away their criteria. Her profile clearly says she doesn’t want short guys and no sci-fi/superhero geeks, but she’s hot, dammit. I’ll just explain to her how short guys are more dependable (in so many ways) and that Star Wars is actually more in the science-fantasy genre, so we should definitely hook up. I mean, that’s what DMs are for, right? To make my case and skip over all those limitations she’s putting out there to weed out other guys exactly like… me.
Anyway, where were we? Oh, right, why the hell are we talking about dating apps on this here writing page? What’s going on?
Well, as I’m sure a lot of you have already figured out, using a dating app is a lot like submitting my work somewhere. It’s trying to find that perfect person who’s looking for what I’m offering. Either a long term partner like an agent or maybe just a quick, one-time thing like placing a short story in a magazine, anthology, or a contest. And I’m going to have my best results with these submissions if I’m being honest. With myself and with them.
Yeah, sure—there’s always going to be the occasional mistake. I might spell someone’s name wrong or misread a requirement. Hell, one time I submitted to a magazine and the editor politely wrote back and pointed out thanks but they’d gone out of print six months earlier. These aren’t a lack of honesty as much as signs I’m maybe rushing things a bit at times and need to slow down a bit.
But I really don’t want to be lying about what my manuscript is. I shouldn’t reformat it to make it hit a certain page count. I don’t want to call it a romance when it’s a thriller with a minor romance subplot. I definitely shouldn’t say it’s got strong religious themes without being clear the “religion” is a doomsday cult trying to summon the old gods to cleanse the Earth.
I especially don’t want to ignore what they’ve specifically said they want. Yeah, they don’t want urban fantasy novels—but they’ll want mine, dammit! All short stories have to be under 7500 words, but once they read mine they’ll understand why it’s 11,000. No explicit violence toward women or animals… but I mean, they just say that to weed out the real weirdoes, right? And I know I’ve mentioned the guy who sent his sex comedy to a Christian values screenplay competition… ?
If I want to make a connection—a serious one that’s going to lead to something, even if it’s only something short term—I need to be honest. I can’t lie about what I’m offering. I can’t ignore what they want. If I do, I can’t blame them when they toss my manuscript in that big pile on the left.
Or, y’know, if they swipe that way.
Next time, I really want to not talk about something.
Until then, go write.