My Path to Indie Publication Series is a companion series to Marshall Ryan Maresca’s Path to Publication. I have been avidly reading Marshall’s posts since I discovered his blog. Read Part IPath to Indie Publication.

First Sale *

So after following Kris and Dean to that Rustycon workshop in Tacoma where I learned THE SECRET of breaking through in publishing, I focused on short fiction. It made sense. My pace was somewhat off the mark for one a week, closer to one a month or so. I managed 17 submissions in 1996 and 88 in 1997. In 1998, submission #141, “Shooting Star,” sold to Millennium SF&F. The story was inspired by an off-hand remark by Dean, I still hear his voice when I read the last lines of that story. It took me about 20 minutes to write the first draft. It went on to sell two more times totaling over $30 and let me call myself a published and paid writer. It also helped me believe in Kris and Dean’s suggestion that writing fast was not necessarily writing bad.

I continued to write and submit short fiction while I puttered away at a traditional fantasy novel, which I will publish along with its unwritten, but envisioned sequels at some point. I submitted it to the same slushpiles as the other novel. Again, no luck.

I went to conventions, Worldcons in 96-97 and many other local cons, collected rejections, took workshops, participated in Schrodinger’s Petshop Cyber where I re‘met’ Holly Lisle. Holly was a friend of a friend through the Heinlein Forum and the Galactic Citizen contacts and I bought and loved her first book, Fire in the Mist, and its follow-ups. I participated in the Critters online critique group and attempted to create and fit in with other in-person writer’s groups.

I kept up a steady stream of submissions and discovered Slater’s First Law of Submissions. If one had enough stories in the mail, they didn’t sting much when they come back. Its corollary is when one has gone without seeing or thinking about a story for weeks to months, an honest reading and rewrite is easy when it finally return. [This editing breaks one of the Roberts’ Rules of Writing, but I think fits within the developing yourself as a writer piece.]

The Second of Slater’s Laws of Submissions is more of a guideline or probability—Maybe Slater’s Rule of 12. Whenever I managed to have 12 stories submitted at one time, I would sell one by the time the other 11 came back. [Hhhmmm… 11.]

Over the next few years I sold several more stories, started many more and finished quite a few of them. Was I ready for prime time? No. Not by a far piece of hard road. I had racked up 300+ submissions, gained a pretty thick skin and hated it when people gave me critiques of, “this is good.” I wanted to get better.

My next near-big breakthrough happened the year I managed 101 submissions.

Coming next week: Part III–2003: Breakout year?

* Adapted and expanded from the Foreword to Outward Bound: Science Fiction & Poetry, a collection of some of my published and unpublished works. Top