If you asked me if there was anything I wanted to accomplish before I died, I have only ever had one answer: to publish a book.
Despite this being my one long term goal, I have never made any progress toward it in any way. It always seemed like something there would be plenty of time for later on. Well guess what, the older you get the less time you have for such things! And time and tide, as they say, wait for no man. Not that I believe I need to take any creative writing classes or anything (I somehow managed to avoid taking any of them through college, though I don’t know why) but I certainly haven’t been working on a manuscript or writing anything at all, other than this blog of course.
I have plugged the heck out of Dreamsongs by George R.R. Martin on this blog, so I won’t go into it too much here. (EDIT: Because of the way things happened, this post ended up being published *before* the main GRRM post which kept getting pushed back due to more topical posts) But as I was going through the book and listening to Mr. Martin (who has probably vaulted Stephen King as my favorite author) speak about his early career, I had an awakening. In any job, your first position isn’t C.E.O.; you have to start at an entry level position and work your way up. I should say that another non-trivial event happening at around the same time was the necessity of making up hundreds of stories at mealtime for Evie to get her to eat. They are not the sort of thing you would ever write down, but they did flex the old creative muscles a bit and I found they liked the exercise.
It seems strange to me now that I had never considered writing short stories since A) they are shorter and thus easier to write, and B) I always prefer books of short stories to full length novels. But, believe it or not, it had never occurred to me until Dreamsongs. Immediately I began researching with my usual excitement, tenacity and attention to detail, leaving no stone unturned. I have read most everything I can find about professional publishing in the Science Fiction / Fantasy / Horror markets, my preferred genres. I have amassed a decent collection of links and references on such things. I’m not sure if I want to put them up here, since it seems almost rude for a person who has no publishing credits to his name whatsoever to be putting advice and things on the Internet as if I have anything to teach anybody.
So I researched and learned as much as I possibly could about what makes a saleable story, which is to say, not necessarily the greatest story of all time as judged by high school English class standards, but one that had commercial appeal. This included reading all the lists I could possibly find about what sorts of stories are clichéd, researching what markets were out there and what sorts of stories they accepted, reading other published stories, learning how you properly format your manuscript, etc. Now, armed with this knowledge, all I had to do was write a story.
After about 3 weeks, the 4th revision of my first story should be finished tonight and then I will ship it off for my first submission. It is a decent story, but I have already begun my second story which I think will be much better. It comes as no surprise that my first attempt might fall short of spectacular or, to put it another way, I don’t think anybody would disagree that you need to have practice to succeed.
I feel very confident because I have time on my side. I am not a starving writer who needs to sell a story to pay his rent. If I never sell a story, then I really don’t mind and at least I tried. In the meantime, it is definitely a more worthwhile hobby then surfing the net or watching T.V. And I really, honestly, truly enjoy the inventing and telling of stories. In fact, I keep thinking of good ideas much faster than I can write them. So, though it may take dozens of stories and years of time, I feel confident that sooner or later I will succeed.
The only question that remains to be seen is if, having published a story in a magazine, I can cross publishing off my list or if this will be a stepping stone to a full fledged novel. Or will it be a stone of another kind, sinking my ambition to the bottom of the sea.
I have chosen to keep this story writing (and thus this entry) private until such time that I feel this whole idea is not foolish. Or, until I decide that it is completely foolish and we can all have a good laugh about it.