Writing: Putting Things in Context
I was out reading some aspiring writer blogs this morning and stumbled across an entry which gave me pause to reconsider my own situation. The aspirant was going over their current campaign to break into publishing. Hundreds of submissions and no dice. I do not know how many years they have been at it and to be fair, I do not really know them that well at all.
Hundreds, folks. Hundreds of short stories making their way through the slush piles, getting picked off left and right yielding no joy what so ever. You have to admire the determination and since I’ve not read their fiction, I can’t say if they should keep at it. Better yet, even if I didn’t like the person, I wouldn’t say that.
It took me, from the moment I set my mind seriously to the task, about seven years to achieve initial publication. I started submitting sporadically in 2000, researching the markets and getting to know the lay of the land. My first stories had problems of course and you can see some of the earlier ones at Bewildering Stories (I’ll put a link up here in a bit over to the right). I received my first personal rejection letter with feedback from Gardner Dozois in 2003 on Tranquility Lost, which gave me a lot of ideas on how to work up my future stories. His advice stays with me to this day.
Even if you set aside the Maternal Soldier debacle and posit that I should have seen print in 2005, I did finally sell in 2007 to Interzone and again that same year to Apex. I’ve published one story per year since, low by some standards but I’ve never been a prolific writer. Production wise I have probably written a grand total of 30 to 50 short stories and I think the number is probably lower. I’ve not taken an inventory in quite some time. I’ve submitted my work to market maybe 35 to 45 times, perhaps as high as fifty. Granted, I submit more often now that there are markets more amenable to e-mail submission.
But I’ve not reached a hundred rejections, even now. I suspect I’m closing on sixty or so. Again, I haven’t kept track since the first sale.
Some will work their entire lives to get published and never achieve much. Some will resort to vanity press after decades of labor. Others will reach a point where they accept some fundamental truth within themselves (whether it is really true or not) that perhaps they do not have what it takes to make the sale. They’ll give up and perhaps go indulge in basket weaving.
I’ve groused about barriers and I believe they are very real ones. I’ve groused about the markets and their tastes, especially since 2005. I have railed against those who’d tell me how to do my job as a writer yet do not have a paycheck to back up their demands (and even if they did, would I listen?). Yet I managed to punch through anyway.
Perhaps it is possible to keep punching through. Even if it is not, two respectable story sales is far more than many ever get.
Maybe, as some of my friends tell me, I should see success for what it is, rather than reinventing it into failure. Others would kill to have what I have.
The Limb Knitter – 2004, Concept Illustration by Kellie Gillette
I think I’ve pretty much decided this will be the next project, if I can get time to work on it. It is sitting on my stack in the original project binder. Most likely when I read the project I’ll wince at the material. I always do when I read an older project, even the two stories which are published cause winceable moments as I read them.
The project is set in the same universe with the nation state of Velaysia struggling to hold their own against the nameless Invaders. Some I’m sure would criticize the faceless nature of the Enemy in The Limb Knitter and perhaps in this story. What interests me is the conflicts that go on within a unit or an organization as well as some of the myths and fear that grow in those organizations over the course of a prolonged conflict.
I think some research may be in order, if I can wedge it in.
So I’ll crack open the binder and look it over today.
When and If Journalspace comes back up
What to do with that blog? Well, five years of entries are over there. I suppose if anything survives I should cull through them and back up the valuable ones. John Birmingham would tell me that the entries pertaining to the infamous Poodle of Uniguard are priceless. That will require time. There is also the need to preserve specific writing entries pertaining to various stories. I suppose this would be an opportunity edit a massive of material.
While that goes on, what should I do with the blog itself? I suppose I could make it a personal blog and steer this one more towards a professional blog. I could use it as a duplicate site along with The Pondering Sapling at Blogger, creating triple redundancy. I don’t think I can count on it as the Primary Blog anymore and I suspect when it is all said and done, John Birmingham is going to reach the same conclusion. For him the matter is of vital importance because at the back of every novel since Designated Targets is a link to his journalspace blog.
I’ll keep pondering this issue and keep folks informed.
The Reading Front
I’m still reading The Bonus Army, which is a first class book covering the particulars of the Bonus Expeditionary Force and their effort to obtain a portion of their Soldier’s Bonus prior to 1945. It was the depths of the Great Depression and they couldn’t wait till 1945 to get their money, they needed it right then. I think I will write up a review as I generate a new lecture for American History II based on that event. I think it will illustrate the Depression in a new light with a different approach to the usual Saint Franklin D. Roosevelt school of handling that time period (which I have long since grown very weary of).
I hate talking about FDR’s alphabet soup for the most part.
Last night I continued reading Meet You In Hell by Les Standiford, which covers the Homestead Steel Mill Strike of 1892. I’m in the middle of Carnegie’s overall biographic sketch which is fairly close to the one I give during lectures. Strange since I scrambled to get that material from an old Encyclopedia Britannica entry on the man two nights before my first eval lecture. I can see why my boss immediately thought of the book and mentioned it to me. I believe I will try to write a review of this book as well as I tweak my Carnegie lecture.
Additional books include a biography on Ben Franklin, which a full time peer of mine does not view in a kind light. I’ve also got Empire Express: The Building of the First Transcontinental Railroad by David Haward Bain, a book I’ve been meaning to pick up for awhile.
On top of that I have three short stories from my peer to look over.
So I’ve got a full day of reading ahead.
The Father Front
Mom says he sounds congested and tired this morning. He has been struggling with breathing for months now. He did eat, which I take as a good sign.
The main problem, it appears, is that his heart’s ability to pace itself is out of whack. I think that could surely be fixed with a pacemaker but that will be up to the docs down at the VA (folks whom I do not have any real confidence or faith in, to be honest). At least they took my father immediately when he arrived at the Emergency Room. All of the other area hospitals in their infinite wisdom decided to shut down their ERs for the holidays. The VA was the only one taking people and they were packed.
So it goes.
Steven Francis Murphy
On the Outer Marches