Almost five years to the day since my first story was published (“Amy’s First” at Daily Science Fiction). As good a time as any to reflect on the path taken and to take a squint at the route ahead (or is it only into my fluff-filled navel? — hmmm, not sure).
I’ve been extremely fortunate to have twenty other stories published in the intervening years. Half in pro-paying markets, the rest in semi-pro or token; about half flash, the rest short stories and a novelette. I’ve been privileged to share ToCs with writers I’ve admired since I was a child, and I’ve been published in markets that folded shortly after my story appeared. I’ve had acceptances on first submission in less than a day, and I’ve had stories rejected over thirty times and over the course of many years before they were finally published. I’ve been paid on acceptance and never paid. I’ve had complimentary mail, messages and tweets from total strangers and I’ve had stories utterly ignored. I’ve had stories edited to an inch of their lives, and (mostly) I’ve had stories completely untouched.
Verdict? I still feel I’m very much a beginner, wandering about in the foothills. Possibly lost. Possibly making progress. Possibly just covering necessary ground to get to where I need to go. So many markets and types of stories I still aspire to that I lack the skill and courage to even attempt. Still so many stories in my trunk that I really like, but I don’t know how to fix. I can’t even tell whether they are fixable or not. So the submission process remains largely a matter of throwing stuff out and seeing what sticks. Or not. No magic secret revealed apart from sheer persistence and constantly striving to improve.
I’ve deliberately moved away from writing flash length pieces, for the time being. Nothing wrong with flash — such stories can pack a mighty punch — but it’s currently the longer lengths that I find most challenging and satisfying to work on. Consequently the more difficult to place. And I’m OK with that. That’s where I need the practice. Where I need to improve. Where I need to spend the time, no matter how long it takes.
Because don’t kid yourself. This is a long, long game.
(Which isn’t a game.)
And perhaps, one day… the novel, again.