The Magic of “What the Hell?”

Words have power.

There is a certain amount of magic in words and, if you didn’t believe that on some level then you probably wouldn’t be here.

You can see it everywhere, the magic of words. It moves us in so many ways. From the greatest speeches in history, kindling ideas and actions in the hearts and minds of thousands, to a single individual whispering to themselves, “You got this.”

Words have magic.

Today, I’d like to talk about three of them: What the Hell?

Despite the question mark at the end, this is not – really – a question. Sure, it can be used that way. It can be an expression of bafflement and dismay, but that’s not the context I’m talking about here.

The way I’m using it here – and I guarantee that you’ve used it this way too, even if you haven’t realized it – is more like a declaration.

It’s what the person standing on the end of the dock, above a lake that they know is going to be on the cold side will say before jumping in with both feet.

It’s what a person beginning something new and unusual might say before taking that first step out of their comfort zone.

“What the Hell?” could almost be called a battle cry. It accompanies dedication to a course of action, acknowledging that there may be obstacles, consequences, bumps in the road. It notes these things, yet continues in spite of them.

“What the Hell?” is liberating in a way that few other phrases are and, from that freedom, can spring unexpected results.

Let me tell you a story:

Toward the end of last year, somewhere around November, I had decided that the time had come to trunk my first novel. For those of you that don’t know what that means, I had decided that I was going to set this work aside. Put it in a virtual trunk and move on to something else.

It wasn’t that I had fallen out of love with the story, or stopped believing that it could go places. It was more like I felt like I had stalled. The story wasn’t getting anywhere with agents. I had worked and reworked it to the point where my queries were returning requests for more pages, rejection letters were becoming personalized, rather than form letters, but the rejections kept coming.

In the end, I had racked up a pile of 51 rejection emails and, aside from a couple of short stories, I was spending more time in revision than I was writing new stuff. Time to move on…

In December, I saw that a Twitter pitch event was running*. The event was #SFFPit.** I was late for it – like 5 hours late. Half of my pitching opportunities were gone and, anyway, I was working on something else.

Then I said, “What the Hell?” and I started pitching.

2 agents liked my pitch.

After submitting my query*** they both asked for more pages.

One of them passed.

One of them wanted to see the whole thing.

Then they wanted to talk to me.

Then they offered to represent me.

I am purposefully glossing over details, here, because this isn’t about how I came to meet my agent.

It’s about how I can track everything back to that one moment. That one moment where I said “What the Hell?” and took a step.

That’s what this is about.

What I want you to take away from this is an awareness that any moment can be “That” moment.

Do you have a story, but you’re not sure a magazine will accept it?

What the Hell? Submit it.

Is there an anthology out there that you want to be a part of that’s offering an open call?

What the Hell? Write a story for it. Send it off.

Are you a dystopian-zombie-steampunk-in-space writer that wants to write a romance?

What the Hell? Go for it!

Take that step. The hardest part is beginning but, What the Hell?

You never know what could happen.

Good luck.



*I cannot recommend participating in these highly enough. If, for no other reason than it forces you to condense the heart of your story into less than 140 characters. This is an extremely useful skill to develop for when you start pitching your work.

** You can check it out here

***ACCORDING TO THE GUIDELINES!!! This is *so* not optional. Ye have been warned…

Time: 11:40 am-ish…adjusted for daylight savings time *grumble*

Music: Epica – Our Destiny


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