When I first remembered I had forgotten to write, my mind began to ask questions about how things got into print. At the time, maybe 2007, the majority of the information on websites did its best to steer me away from new technology and really focused on the traditional methods of publishing.
After a much research, I began to accept their word as the only truth available and created the first germ of my Grand Plan. I would follow in the footsteps of the great authors before me. I had a story and my story must be read, after all. Naive, but common at that stage, all predicated on the conviction that my writing would knock their socks off. I could blithely discount the endless tales of rejection posted upon myriad websites, because they simply were not me. The conceit of those untested in battle, almost comical in retrospect.
I recognize that I am the only person in the history of the world to have felt that way.
Perhaps a touch of common sense tempered my thoughts, though, for I at least came up with a plan. A valid plan, actually, but in practice impossible for all that it might technically work.
The best path for getting my eighties novel published seemed to involve three steps. First, get at least three short stories published in a valid primary market to qualify for membership into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). Second, leverage those sales and that membership to gain a working relationship with a literary agent. Third, write and sell the book to a top publisher.
If the reader by this point isn’t smiling at my wide-eyed innocence, then there exists every possibility that this entire discussion seems very new. Unfortunately, it isn’t, as the more veteran readers already know from experience. My phone did not start ringing with agents and publishers clamoring to speak with me. Shocking, but true. As plans go, it ranks right up there with any other where the second step involves winning the lottery. Learning about submission requirements, I dusted off one of my first completed short stories from maybe eighteen years earlier, and sent it in for my first rejection slip–and rightly so.
My apologies to the poor slush pile reader who last touched it.
While I made the rounds to all the professional markets with that Ray Bradbury* story, I began my first new short. I started in with only vague notions of time travel and ended up with a mess so hard to follow even I am not sure what actually happened in the end. It did not sell either. Surprise.
Short stories came, went, and were rejected roundly. Around this time, two things happened. I added step zero, specially learn to be a better writer. Additionally, I found the Critters Workshop. Fortunately, the excellent feedback I’ve received over the years from the second substantively supported the first. Critters introduced me to Tony Farnden. Since then, I flirted with Step Zero Point Five that involved on secondary (non-pro) markets, and Step Zero Point One that specified that I should begin a blog about writing.
Of course, that last one is utter nonsense.
Ultimately, I reached a conclusion. The only way to be published is to get good at writing, and the only way to get good at anything is practice. These novels and the three years of work provided my solution. I do not consider myself a “good” writer, but I can categorically say I am a “better” writer because of it.
*Please Note: Not “Bradbury-esque” although it certainly tried. No, this stunner featured Ray Bradbury as the honest-to-goodness main character and as many references to his stories as I could wedge in. I may post it here for a good laugh someday.