It’s difficult to know the right path to take when you’re pursuing a ludicrous career in fiction. For a long time, you make no money at all, and pass the time pouring your days into work that gets sent to people whose replies, cunningly impersonal though they may be, essentially boil down to “No one wants to read this.”

But writing is personally rewarding, and besides, that voice inside keeps telling you these people are fucktards and you are talented and one day they will realize this and go “Oh, why couldn’t I see this at the time” while weeping big salty tears into their tea, which you’ll never get to see unless you keep it up. That would be the greatest tragedy of all.

What do you do after failing for a while, then? Try something new. A new novel. Or set aside the long form for a while and crank out some short stories, then when those all rack up rejections until you’ve lost all faith, sit down and consume 3-9 months producing another novel no one wants to read, and once you confirm that it’s time to go out and plow through another half dozen stories. Because trying the same thing you failed at last time would just be crazy: just think about all the exciting new ways you can find to fail.

Rather than admitting you’re just mucking around blindly, it’s nice to pretend to have some sort of goal.

When I got through revisions of my last book around September ’07, I sat back and thought “Well, this pretty much kicks ass. Time to write some short stories and finally get them published so agents will take me more seriously when I start sending this around.”

That was my goal: get 3-4 short stories published somewhere, anywhere really, just something I could write on a cover letter besides my college lit mag. I’d done plenty of literary fiction in college workshops and a few more in the years after, but these were the first SFF shorts I’d written. I had my first acceptance appear in the April ’08 issue of Reflection’s Edge, thought “Well, that’s fucking awesome, and so am I,” then didn’t sell anything else until I sent another to RE for their October issue. Months pass; nothing. (By nothing I mean I sent lots around and grew increasingly confused as to how everyone else could possibly be that stupid and/or I could possibly be that bad.)

Sale to M-Brane SF mid-February. Sweet. Keep writing at my fairly slow pace. Sale in late April to OG’s Speculative Fiction–well booyah. Over the next two weeks, I land pieces on Tower of Light and The Future Fire. That’s six stories in five markets; none of them are monsters, but together they’ll look pretty good, I think.

Oh rad. I hit my goal. I even made a little money.

Oh fuck. Now I need a new goal. Now I need to get published in a pro magazine.

That’s where I’m shooting now. I’m looking around at a lot of the names in the places I’ve got pieces upcoming and I see a trend: a lot of people hit a streak like me where they may have been working for years, but once they hit that first sale, within a year they’ll have three or six or ten. A few of them, like me, are just hitting that streak. Others did it a few years back and might have a couple dozen stories out there. Of these, some have a listing or two in a pro mag.

Presumably, of this sub-subset, a fewer still go on to sell novels for fat stacks, make Big Names for themselves, get laid nonstop by sci-fi groupies, etc. I’ll do that. For now, the next step, I think, is to crack those pro markets. Wish me luck.

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I am a Science Fiction and Fantasy author, based in LA. Read More.
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