Sounds easy right? I have to remember that while it seems like I’ve been waiting forever in my mind to get my writing out into the world (I was unpublished in any format up until only a year ago), it hasn’t really been that long since my first fiction was picked up by Potluck Magazine (www.potluckmag.com) in May 2014. Since then, I’ve been able to publish seven more short stories on e-zines and three in print journals and my first novel was accepted for publication only seven months after my first short story. This relatively short timeframe is not the only span of time that I’ve been an aspiring writer.
I began writing with the intention of eventual publication in April 2010. I managed to complete a 95,000 word novel by August 2010 and shopped it to literary agents for a year with only one partial and one full request. They both came back as declines and I didn’t begin a new project until December 2011. That second attempt yielded a 107,000 word thriller I felt was worth sharing with agents by June 2013. I was optimistic when I received four full requests and several partials over the course of six months, all of which eventually declined (two of the full requests came back negative after 9 months!).
Needless to say, I was tired of waiting. I took the sage advice from the many authors and agents out there who say that you should work on your next project while you wait for responses on the previous one. So I did. It didn’t make the waiting any easier but it did take my mind off the minutes ticking away and got me to check my e-mail only about twenty times a day instead of a hundred and twenty.
As I began writing my third novel, I also decided that I would dabble in a bit of short story writing to keep my mind fresh as I inevitably would get bogged down in different parts of a novel-length project. This did a few things for me: (1) it refocused my writing efforts on a short-term goal (2) it exercised my writing in a more concise form (3) yielded a tangible product I could shop around without having to wait for novel completion.
These three things helped develop my writing, allowed me a positive break to bring an unrelated short project to completion, and helped me return to the imposing novel project with a fresh mind.
When the first short story was accepted by Potluck Magazine I was ecstatic. It gave me confidence and a little bit of legitimacy. I used the stories as writing credits on my query letters and kept at the novel.
That first short story success spurred me on to take more short story breaks and yielded more acceptances. Maybe I wasn’t wasting my time after all! Someone out there thought my writing was good enough to post on their site and one editor even accepted a story for their print magazine, then two! It was intoxicating. These small victories did wonders for my confidence and helped me keep focus on my writing as I slugged away on my novel.
I completed my third novel in only five months and had a publishing contract offer from a small publisher only three months after that! I was unsuccessful at landing an agent and decided to go with the small publisher without an agent for many reasons (I’ll share some of those in a future post). I actually had a full manuscript request from a reputable agent within a few days before the publisher offered a contract. I spoke with the agent and decided to go with the publisher after the agent said that they most likely couldn’t get to my submission soon to give me a quick answer on an offer of representation. I smelled another several month wait for a possible negative response and jumped in with both feet with the publisher.
These were problems I was happy to have. After completing three novels and basking in eleven short story acceptances, I was ready to discuss my work with someone who was excited about it as much as I was. The small victories helped me keep my sights set on the goal of having a novel (and hopefully many more) published.
I am happy to report that my manuscript is in the editing phase with a fantastic publisher (to be announced soon) and is serving as another writing success that has given me the strength to begin my fourth novel (the other two were great practice and may still see publication with solid editing).
I am still taking breaks from this new novel-length project to write short stories (just finished another this past week that will be offered to Potluck soon) to exercise and develop my writing in more than one area and will hopefully keep one more publishing success begetting many more.
Congratulations! I can’t wait to read the novel! Here’s to much more success!
Thanks Alisse! I can’t wait to share it with everyone!
So much of this sounds so similar to my experiences, Todd. I’ll be very interested to read your thoughts on opting for no agent, because I have plenty of thoughts on that myself. Maybe I’ll blog about it as well and we can compare notes!
Matt, I was a bit disappointed with my agent hunting experience. The waiting and no replys really irritated me. So, when Pandamoon was interested in my work, I jumped at the chance to get the ball rolling. I just needed a little bit of encouragement from someone in the industry to feel legitimized in my writing efforts. I didn’t feel it was a mistake to go on without an agent…at least not yet anyway…but I’ve just gotten started and am so glad I have. I was getting annoyed with the waiting.
Congrats on your recent writing successes, Todd! I’m curious about why you started writing in the first place. Where did that impulse come from? How far back does it go? Thanks.
Thanks Randy. I’d been wanting to write for a few years but didn’t think I’d be any good at it. Then, I read a pretty poorly executed story from an author that managed to score a major publisher. I figured I could do at least as good as them…from there, I began writing and was surprised at how difficult it was! That was in 2010. So, I was humbled by the process a bit when I slaved over a piece of writing for weeks and it still came out terrible. But, I continued to read as homework for my writing and have never stopped. Nathaniel Hawthorne said it best, “Easy reading is damn hard writing.”
Wow, sounds like a lot of writing going on there. Well done sir! Looking forward to the post about why you went the publisher-without-an-agent route.
Thanks James. After many rejections from agents I decided that a small publisher would be a good route for me since I didn’t have the time to self-pub. I’m happy with the decision so far… 🙂
Great post, Todd! You’ve got an awesome publishing story. Congrats on getting so many of your short stories published, that’s amazing! It’s good to hear that so many authors go through the same thing when it comes to finding an agent or a publisher. It gives hope to others to know that rejection has happened to every successful author. Cheers!
Thanks Cheri! I like producing short stories. It helps me develop as a writer without so much of a time commitment. I hope to write full-time someday…and then I can settle in to novel length stories with regularity. Thanks for the encouragement!