So here’s here’s how it often goes. First you were a reader, and you read a lot, and you thought, hey, I should write something like what I read, because, you know, how cool would that be? So you try. And it sucks, and you go through that thing where your creative faculty isn’t as strong as your critical faculty and you want to just quit, it is so ugly but you keep at it.
God Knows Why.
At a certain point, in your reading and writing, your stuff seems good enough. It’s distincly like some of the stories you read in the magazines. It still isn’t selling. You haven’t broken through. You start to obsess; are you even being read? Do they think you suck because of the stories you sent a few years back which kinda did suck? Do they have a preconception that is blinding them to the evident ‘good enough’ quality to your work?
Then you realize, well, good enough isn’t really good enough, is it? You’re going to have to rise up past the median point, make an impression. Those median stories you’re reading may well be from people who broke through long ago, containing worlds and characters and a voice which has somehow proven itself already. Which you haven’t done. Yet.
Most short fiction markets want to be among the first to publish someone who goes on to be a Big Deal. I mean, that’s part of the point of a magazine. A magazine is a place where the reputations of authors are rubbed against each other, with some of the luster of the bigger names adhering, hopefully, to those whose name mean nothing when selling magazines. Like mine.
I made my first pro sale in the 90s, to a magazine called Aboriginal SF, but thereafter wrote a few utterly toxic stories with radioactive content. The content was politically offensive and I didn’t have the skill to really transcend these tales off-putting nature. Nobody told me this, but looking back I can see, yeah, nobody was going to publish that. Anyway, I quit for twenty years.
But I’ve got a streak of 8 pro sales to two top teir markets now, Asimov’s and F&SF, for stories written over the last decade; some brand new, my breakthrough story for example, some rewritten, some stories finished which I started a decade ago, and some older stories with rewritten endings. New stuff of mine continues to not sell, older refurb’s are selling, and stuff I’m writing now is often not right in ways even I can see.
So I’ve broken through, in one way, without breaking through, inside, in my process, in knowing what to write or if what I’m writing is actually working. I’d hoped that once I broke through, I’d sell most of what I wrote, because I’d know how to write things that sold, and while I have more insight now that I used to, I’m not there yet.
Maybe I never get there. Maybe that’s all right.
Oh, but the novel calls; not a specific novel, yet, but just the idea of something that long. I’ve gotten enough Signs. It’s time to write one. But which one? I’m collecting advice from authors on how to think about this; I’m told to not try to second guess the market; to write something I care enough about to live with for a good long time. So. I’ll do that.
Soon. Soon? I hope.