I’ve sold Story #26 of my 2011 Short Story Challenge– to write 40 new short stories this year– to Penumbra, a new speculative fiction e-magazine. And yes, they pay professional rates of 5 cents per word.
My story will appear in the January 2012 issue. I’ll post more details and a link to the magazine when I have them.
It’s also a milestone for me because it marks my first professional sale.
I decided to get serious about my fiction about a year ago. Really started to focus on finishing things, on mailing them out rather than endlessly revising the same unfinished stories. Started really paying attention to the advice given by professionals, especially Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. And yes, I learned a ton– and took in a lot simply by osmosis– when I attended the June 2011 Short Story Workshop (taught mainly by Kris, an award-winning editor and writer).
Now, I’m not sure I agree with every bit of advice they dole out. But you know what? They’re both established professionals making a living from their writing. They have been at this for decades. They know what the heck they are talking about.
So I listened, and I learned. And I’m still learning.
Making the sale is great, but it doesn’t fool me; I know I still have a ton to learn to bring my craft to a higher level. My job now is to write the next one, and the next, and the one after that. May sell or it may not. But I’ll keep practicing and learning new tools, how to tell a good story in a compelling way.
I have to admit the making the sale did get in my head for a few days. I found it hard to sit down and write. The idea that someone might actually publish these words I was writing, these practice sessions that I was setting down on paper, paralyzed me. Felt like the words had to be perfect, the story had to be great.
Well you know what? Some stories I set down on paper stink. I know that. I’m sure editors are sometimes thinking that when they send me form rejections.
But I also know that I’m wrong about that sometimes, and the only way to find out is to finish the story and mail it.
The story I sold is a perfect example. It’s a short, funny sci-fi story. In many ways the premise is ridiculous. I wasn’t sure the story even worked. I wondered if I should mail it out or just trunk it.
But I was wrong; it worked and it worked great, and an editor bought it. Sold the first time out, actually.
It feels great to have a story out there and published that never got rejected!
And really, it didn’t take so long:
- I wrote that story just a little bit past 100,000 words of fiction written since I got serious about it. None of the stories from the first 100,000 words has sold yet, although I know at least one of them moved on to later rounds of reviewing (a piece I sent to ChiZine, a really tough market to crack).
- It was the 73rd manuscript that I mailed out this year.
- I wrote the story when my race score was at 20 stories in the mail; the acceptance came at 31 stories in the mail. (My race score at the moment is 32; the point for the story that sold doesn’t come off until it’s published).
- The acceptance came after I’d hit 90 rejections.
Now it may be twice as long before I sell the next one, or who knows, one of the stories I have out might sell tomorrow. No way to know. But I feel like I’m on the right path and I’ll keep working at it. I’m sure I’m no exception and I have a million words of crap in me. Or heck, I’ve written so much non-fiction in my professional work that I may very well need two million words of crap to overcome that deficit.
But I know there will be some gems in there too.
I have gotten over the hump of the sale now and moved on to the next one. Mailed out Stories #38 and #39 in the last week or so. Both are on the short side; #38 is about 1500 words, #39 is a flash fiction piece. But I’ve been learning a lot and having great fun writing a number of shorter pieces; one of them sold and another was shortlisted elsewhere before it ultimately got rejected. So it seems to be working for me.
I have story #40 nearly finished as well, so I’ll make my 2011 Short Story Challenge goal of 40 stories written and mailed probably by early next week.
So now I’m gunning for my stretch goal of 50 Stories finished and mailed by the end of the year, but it will be tough to get there with some upcoming travel for work plus the usual holiday distractions. But we’ll see. I’m going to take a run at this and see just how far I can get.