Back in the summer of 2009, I read the short fiction collection that changed my life: Just After Sunset by Stephen King. The stories were utterly magnificent, full of life and insight; most importantly, they exhibited King’s passion for language and horror fiction. I was inspired.
I’d read King through the years — The Stand, Different Seasons, Dreamcatcher, The Green Mile, et cetera — but that was from the age of twelve on, long before I elected to “get serious” about writing as a career. At that point it was still a mere childhood fantasy.
Just After Sunset ended with a short explanation from King about why he wrote each of the stories in the collection, and it was that little bit of insight that hooked me. I picked up The Mist soon thereafter, and devoured it with equal delight. Then I dusted off a paperback that had sat idle on my bookshelf for years: On Writing.
The book taught me what King felt he’d learned about the writing and publishing life, about how to keep morale up in the most hopeless of times, and keep on working toward the dream of being a writer. It taught me that all of us more or less begin the same way; it’s the level of persistence, and willingness to work hard, that produces results. It’s reading and writing for 6-8 hours a day when possible, and constantly moving from one piece of writing to the next, that got him to where he is today. Without these hard truths, I’d be nowhere with my writing. I’d probably still be wading through college, drowning in a malaise of equalsparts uncertainty and creeping doubt. Instead, I’m producing new words and making sales, striving to slowly “break in” and make a name for myself.
So thanks, Steve.
In October, as soon as I finished On Writing, still bursting at the seams with inspiration following my nigh-mystical experience with Just After Sunset, I sat down at my computer and cranked out 6,000 words of a short story with a title so bad I won’t even tell you what it was. Months later, that story became almost unrecognizable through careful revision based on the comments of friends, professors, and critiques through Critters.
In February 2010, I sent the story to Weird Tales. To date, the story has been rejected twelve times.
This morning, I was notified that “Taken by Darkness” will be published in April 2011 (next month! w00t!) in the anthology Dark Highlands, Vol. 2.
There are lessons here:
1) A little bit of revision following peer feedback, a lot of faith in your work, and enormous patience are vital to success in this business.
2) Never give up on a story if you believe in it. I believed in this story, so I kept it on the market despite it being my first short story. I knew it was vastly better than the work I did immediately after, and so I allowed it to stay afloat while other stories rightly faded into oblivion.
3) Every editor is different. Period. What is disturbing and offensive to one editor is too funny for another. Or simply bad — whatever. One editor will eventually find some merit in it; they might even buy the thing.
Anyway, this’ll probably mark the end of my horn-blowing. Five sale-related posts are more than enough. Perhaps my first professional-rate, SFWA/HWA-qualifying sale will warrant another, but enough confetti for now. I’m not one for bragging or even generally calling attention to myself. I’m merely reflecting, reveling in the moment, connecting the dots. Eventually, all the work proves worth it in the end — and I’m just giddy as hell about this one.
Here’s to you, Mr. King. I owe you big-time.