Changing Writing Gears

Four years ago when I decided to become a writer after putting it off for 20 years, I wanted to become a full time writer in five years. That was an ambitious and unrealistic goal. Becoming an established writer is taking five years. I think another five years will be needed to entrenched myself into the business of being a writer before I can go full time as a writer. Whenever an artist becomes noticeable success to the mainstream public, the artist has often been toiling away for ten years or more in quiet obscurity. This past month was very good to me with my publication credits list doubling in size. Now I’m changing writing gears for the next three months to prepare for 2010 and the next five years after that.

Last month I finished writing the first part of the rough draft for my second novel. I was planning to use the last month of a three-month break between drafts of my first novel to write two short stories, and take care of all the rejected manuscript submissions that I expected to come in after the summer break. That didn’t happen.

I noticed that I had a new Twitter follower, ElementalHorror, and checked out the Elements of Horror anthology the editor Clive Martyn was putting together. While looking at the submission requirements for short-short horror stories (500 words) involving one of the four elements (air, earth, fire, and wind), a perfectly formed story came to my mind that I immediately wrote and submitted. Within 24 hours after I wrote “Swine of The Earth,” introducing Charles Goodwin of The Giggling Mongoose restaurant and his special ingredient for swine roasted in the earth, the story was accepted for the anthology.

With a restaurant-themed horror story, the fire and water elements were the easiest to incorporate. The earth element was the second hardest, which I wrote first since I couldn’t figure out how to do the air element. After a bit of research over the next few days, I wrote and submitted “Salt of The Air” (curing meat). The story was accepted on the condition that I write the other two elements for four linked flash stories. A few days later I wrote and submitted “Honey of The Fire” (flambé) and “Rice of The Water” (sushi). I had to rewrite the fire story since my surprise husband-wife role reversal fell flat and broke the formula of the other three stories. Removing the role reversal made the revised story became surprisingly kinky. All four Charles Goodwin stories have been accepted for publication.

The good news kept rolling after that. I got the author proofs for “The World’s Best Coffee” that’s been slated The MacGuffin (Fall 2009). “The Unfaithful Camera” is slated Transcendent Visions (January 2010). “The Forgotten Sinner” was accepted this week to appear in Conceit Magazine (December 2009). I have seven stories slated for publication in the next six months. My first and only published short story, “The Uninvited Spook,” appeared 16 months ago in The Storyteller.

After writing four short-short stories for 1,965 words, I wrote and submitted a 6,000-word short story about four teenagers and a killer shopping cart possessed by an angry senior citizen. I felt like I have the Midas touch where everything submitted will automatically be accepted for publication.

A dozen rejection slips made clear that I didn’t have the Midas touch at all, including a few submissions that I thought would be accepted. I got those returned stories back out into the mail to face a cruel world of rejections and rejoin the 50+ manuscripts floating around in the slush piles. I’m submitting my short stories to paid markets from now on. No reason to be giving away my work for contributor copies or nothing at all. Except for poems as there are very few paid markets and I’m still a budding poet.

Writing is still a business and a business needs to make money. Something the IRS will remind me if I don’t start showing a strong profit motive. After four years of writing expenses, I can now figure out how to reduce my burn rate, determine my break-even point, and set financial goals to be operating in the black. I’m thinking about breaking into non-fiction writing to bring in more income. When I prepare my business plan and yearly forecast for this quarter, I’m expecting next year to be financially successful.

With the three month break over, I’m revising the rough draft of my first novel during the week and working on short stories over the weekends. If the next draft is done in three months, I’ll take another three month break to write the second one-third of the rough draft for my second novel, more short stories, and take care of the admin tasks. If not, I’ll take a one-month break to work on short stories and admin tasks before resuming work. I’m still on schedule to have a finished first novel, a finished rough draft of the second novel, a third novel that will be ready to be written, and a finished short story collection, before I go agent hunting in July 2010. When that happens, I will have completed my goal to become an established writer and spend the next five years to become a full time writer.

NOTE: This blog post was first published on Once Upon An Albatross… blog.