Two years ago when I accepted a friend's challenge to actually submit my writing to professional publications, I did so with a strong caveat. I don't expect to ever make money doing this, and I don't want to get caught in the depressing cycle of rejections that I see many authors in. Not that I care about rejections, but that I don't want to have to care about them.
So I spent a lot of time over the last two years listening very closely to successful writers, agents and editors talk about how to give them a story they can sell.
NOTE: I never wrote anything specifically to meet their guidelines. My muse doesn't work that way. I just tried to learn tips about things to do, or not do, to make it easier to sell. How I might decorate the story after I've already written it down. Because my muse doesn't take hints ;-)
Frankly, the advice comes down to some very simple things. 90% of it is obvious good sense if you understand what an editor has to do. And then 10% of it appears to be total BS that originates from a typewriter mentality the publishing industry is still thinking in. You must round your word count because *senior editor* will toss away any story as "too anal" if it has an accurate word count at the top. OMG really? (I'll skip a dozen other things I heard from the big names in this business that make just about the same amount of sense)
Last week I got caught in the middle of an argument between two editors. Both are successful editors of small science fiction presses. Both presses have awards in their names. Both have sold many stories to other publications. And both of them were telling me I was an idiot for believing that other idiot who had no idea what he/she was talking about.
I was flattened. I had nowhere to go, no way to win or even influence the conversation in any useful way other than fold to both of them, duck and run. And I found myself completely uninterested in writing any more. I did get past that and my muse is kicking my head pretty hard right now, but it has set me to thinking seriously about what I'm trying to get out of this. And I think it's time to realize that I've just wasted 2 years.
I set out thinking that if I worked on making a better story and learned what editors had to say about successful stories, I would be learning how to make a good story. Well yes... but no. Meeting the randomized and entirely personal requirements for selling to an editor has only a marginal relationship with writing a good story. You can't sell a bad story to a good editor, but there are hundreds of reasons why editors won't buy the best stories either. These are not 1:1, I don't think they are even 8:1 to be honest. It's the wrong focus.
It made me realize that (just like every other profession) the successful authors are the ones who accept all the crap. jaylake says it's a meritocracy, but not a fair one. I think he's forgetting something. He says it took him 10 years to sell his first story. I think that over the 10 years he became completely inurred to the BS required, and eventually was able to tip the scale in his favor.
ANYWAY... this just goes to my point. Jay wants to sell books. I don't. I want to write something really well. That's all I care about. I cannot imagine that I will ever be a good enough writer to buy more than a cup of coffee with my earnings ;-) Focusing on selling my stories is wasting my time.
From this point forward, I am going to focus 100% on writing the best stories I can. This means that I am going to stop submitting my stories. It takes too much time, sometimes involves a significant amount of frustration, and frankly I haven't learned a single useful thing about writing a story from dealing with submission requirements of editors.
I am going to keep doing what I can to improve my writing. And when I have done the best I can do with a story at this time, I am going to publish it in ePub (B&N, Apple, etc) and Mobi (Kindle) formats online. For free. Why? Because it takes me half the time to create and check it in both formats than it generally does to prepare the submission packet for a magazine. More time in my hands and less frustration means more value to me.
Yes, yes. I will forever be a self-published author with no credits. You know, I think in the balance I'm going to be very happy with that.
There is a twist on this, and I'm curious on what most of you have to say. I'll post more about that in the coming week.
Originally posted at http://jorhett.dreamwidth.org/8348.html. You can comment there using OpenID, or here if you prefer.