Like many people do, I made a New Year’s Resolution back in January and mine was to get published this year.
I’m happy to say that things are moving along well on that front. I have a few short stories due out in anthologies later this year which is both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time and I also sold a story to Metro Fiction recently which is currently with editors pending final revisions.
I distinctly remember a time last year (a few weeks in fact) when I felt I was never going to get anywhere with my writing. It was an awful time because nothing could console me. Everytime I sat down to write I would be greeted with either a blank page staring back at me or, more likely, I would write a few thousand words and hate them to the extent that they were deleted immediately.
So what changed?
Well, if you’re an aspiring writer then I suspect that you’re probably on the edge of your seat right now in anticipation of me revealing a secret formula. Some inside knowledge on how to get published? Or maybe, you think I’ll divulge how it is I go about writing and finishing a story? I’m afraid you will be disappointed. I know this because I trawled countless blogs and websites looking for exactly these things. Although I found many useful titbits and insights, there is no formula.
I will tell you what works for me though but be warned, it won’t be anything you have not read somewhere else before. This is because there is genuinely no secret to writing. Its just you, your pen (or keyboard) and your mind.
The catalyst that spurred me into action was meeting an editor who had in so many words, promised me the world. Really? The world? Well yes, to me, getting published was everything.
I had won a ticket to attend a conference in Nottingham at which several of my favourite authors were guests. The special bit was that as part of the package I would be allowed to sit with an editor for fifteen minutes and have one of my stories critiqued with a view to getting it up to a publishable standard. It may as well have been Willy Wonkers golden ticket because to me, it was everything.
I worked like a slave to write that story and have it ready to show my assigned editor. It went through constant rewrites, drafts and revisions until finally the big day was upon me.
I had expected at the very least to have come away with some degree of success. After all, all fifteen winners had been promised the same thing – to get our stories up to standard.
In truth, this is where alarm bells were beginning to register. I mean, were they going to publish all of us? Probably not. I suspected that maybe half of us would be let down gently by not knowing enough about the world these stories were set in, that is to say, the publishers intellectual property. I further suspected that one or two just would not cut the mustard and be rejected out of hand. Obviously, I felt my story would not fall into either of those two pitfalls.
How wrong I was.
One by one we went in to see the editors and have our stories critiqued. We were, one and all, dreaming big things and had high hopes of a new dawn in which we were welcomed into the world we had dreamed of being part of since we were little boys (and girls).
So, one by one we went in, and one by one we came out.
Everyone was leaving the editors area with a smile, a big smile. The alarm bells were now beginning to register on the richter scale and as I got up to take my turn I downed my gin and tonic – I think my mind was slowly piecing together the harsh reality of the situation.
You see, we hadn’t really won anything. We’d paid a fortune for a ‘golden’ ticket that in truth bought us the opportunity to meet a few of the authors in person and for fifteen minutes with an editor.
I don’t think any of us would have said we paid that high price to sit before our favourite authors. No, we wanted to be them. We wanted our fifteen minutes.
So, as I stepped in to the editors area to have mine, I could not shake the sinking feeling of being duped. After all, everyone who had come out before me had done so glowing with pride. Almost as though they had been told everything they wanted to hear.
My editor was a really nice guy and we had a nice chat but come the end he hadn’t actually told me anything I didn’t already know or that wasn’t common sense.
Unfortunately, he then promised to take another look at my story and get back to me. He never did.
Now I can understand this. Maybe I didn’t make the grade in the end but, he also promised something else. He promised that all those holding a golden ticket would not have to go through the usual submission process in future. We’d be able to submit directly to the editors. To me, and some others, this small victory was gold dust.
That was last year, and I have queried on occasion but as of yet, I have heard nothing. It feels as though we have been discarded now that they’ve got our money. Just another wannabe writer. Its such a shame because he was such a nice bloke, and I hate it when true colours are revealed. I live in hope that I have been mistaken, and that he has actually tried to contact me. I can’t tell you how may times I’ve checked my spam box!
So, here we have the harsh truth about writing and the publishing world. Its a business. Money must be made.
Now your story, I’m sure it’s a work of art and simply amazing. Its probably ground breaking right? Mine too! But if it’s not commercial then it’ll never see the light of day. At least not while your starting out.
Right, I have digressed a bit but I think it was important for me to highlight the fact that you need a harsh slap in the face with the open palm of reality.
So, you wanted to know what works for me?
1) Write every single day. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but do this you must.
2) Finish your shit! Even if you don’t particularly like what you’ve started, at least finish it. Its easier to alter something that exists than to try and make something up from scratch. Come the end you’ll have a finished story. It may be crap, but you’ll have a story! This can be reworked and revised countless times. Where did you think the word draft comes from anyway?
3) Start sending your shit out as soon as you have a few finished pieces under your belt. Many will be rejected. This is fact and one that all writers battle with. You are not alone in this. Personally, I have built a papier-mache house out of rejection slips. It sits next to my desk as a reminder to keep slogging away.
That’s it. There is nothing else.
Work work work. Write, rewrite, write, rewrite, write, rewrite… Submit.
Best of luck.