A few years ago, I said “screw it,” and decided to finally take a stab at something I’ve wanted to do as long as I could remember. And that something was writing fiction.
So one December a few years ago, at the urging of my lovely wife, I poured a glass of Clan MacGregor (the best bottom shelf scotch money can buy), put on some sci-fi sounding music, and sat down at the computer.
What I wrote that night was eventually published online at The WiFiles under the title of Breeding Ground. While I am happy with the final form, I almost prefer the earlier versions of the story, laced with my inexperience and “first attempt” mentality, as well as a lighthearted humor that isn’t prevalent in the final version.
But I digress. In that first night, I got a little tipsy on the scotch writing a first draft of the story and stumbled to bed with so much adrenaline running through my veins that I don’t think I ever did fall asleep that night. It was so exiting to create something.
After getting over my mild hangover the next day, I quickly printed off copies for my wife and brother. (Note: Hangovers are a thing of the past, what with my current life as a dad and all.)
The first draft was by no means anything worth bragging about, but I was proud of it. It was the first piece of fiction I had written outside of a college class, and I felt incredible finally giving writing a try.
But soon the euphoria wore off. I spend the next few weeks trying to write more, but found myself feeling…blah. Yes, “blah” is the best term for it.
I decided to put the writing on hold again. Only this time, I put it on hold with a mission. A writer friend of mine suggested I read Stephen King’s On Writing. So I told my better half that I would put off actually writing for a bit and do some research, including reading that book.
Amazingly, my favorite writer had somehow managed to answer every question and address every insecurity I had. I ate that book up and then hit the internet to research all of the other do’s and don’t’s about publishing fiction.
So after spending the first three months of that year doing the research, I was a lot more prepared then when I sat down in late December and wrote the first draft of “Breeding Ground.”
I’ve see lots of new writers talk about their fears, whether they’re afraid to share their work, afraid to face rejection, or they’re just not confident enough to take the first step. In my case, it was a completely different kind of fear: I was afraid that I would be wasting my time.
Think about this. What’s the first thing you say to someone who claims to be a writer? You say, “Do you have anything published?” Nine times out of ten, the response is “not yet.” I didn’t want to throw away my spare time for an opportunity to say “Not yet” to everyone I meet.
I also had terrible visions of spending hundreds of dollars on ink, paper, and postage only to receive stacks of “Not for us” in the returned SASEs. Yes, I fear wasting money just as much as I fear wasting time.
It wasn’t until I did some research and figured out that Asimov’s and SF&F aren’t the only two publications for genre writing out there (even though they are two of the best). Stephen King points to the annual Writer’s Market for a list of thousands of publishers accepting unsolicited work and there are also great sites like Ralan and Duotrope with searchable market listings.
The first time I browsed the Writer’s Market listings I knew that I actually had a chance. Glancing over the thousands of publications convinced me that if I was good enough, I’d have little trouble finding a magazine or anthology willing to publish me. Getting published no longer seemed like a one-in-a-million chance. Also, much to my surprise, most markets not only accepted electronic submission, but required it. Meaning: Not printing off millions of copies of short stories and dealing with SASEs. This writing thing will barely cost me a dime 🙂
I spent a good year practicing and learning before I attempted submitting anything, and then it took another year before I got my first short story acceptance. And it did take a lot of time. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that writing doesn’t take a lot of time. It takes more time than you could possibly imagine. But it’s totally worth it.
I started blogging about writing once I really started to taking it seriously. I do it for a few reasons, including using it to keep myself motive and help hold me accountable to my own personal goals.
But mostly, I started this blog for other writers like me. Writers who are still somewhat new to the game, writers who are still at the “not yet” stage, and writers who still have their day jobs.
I hope that watching me learn and improve can help you do the same.
Thanks for reading and check back tomorrow for another episode of the Write Good Books Podcast.
Have any stories to share about how you got started writing fiction? Leave a comment and let us know!