Tuesday, October 03, 2006

So You Wanna Get Published

If you've ever wanted to get published, but don't know how (or if you're a sadist, and you enjoy watchinig artsy types flounder around in a world that doesn't care what "their process" is) then you'll enjoy reading a Graeme Stone's Quest for Publishing.

As you might have guessed, I'm Graeme Stone, and this is my publishing quest. It actually started back in April, 2006 when my boyfriend and I decided that in order to get ahead, we had to take a step back. I happen to have a farm house in the middle of rural Kansas (as opposed to the farm house in the middle of the city), and we managed to take off six months for an artist's retreat. We have worked while out here in the hinterlands, but it's been a struggle. Still, without the distractions of city life back in LA, we have basically accomplished what we set out to do. He's finished a bunch of paintings and I've finished some writing. While I have not finished the novel I came to write, I'm well into a 2nd draft. I've also completed three shorts stories. Most importantly, I've gotten organized. While this might not sound like the kind of Walt Whitman-esque thing to do on retreate, it's exactly what I needed. That's also why this blog isn't called "Graeme Stone's Writing Quest." More and more I realize that nobody can teach me to write. But I can learn to publish; I can learn the business of writing. And so can you.

It's not what I wanted to do anymore than writing is. I have to write. I have to. I've gotten into fights with my sister over my failures to secure retirement, over my lack of health insurance. I stare down whopping student loans and wonder if I'll die joyfully in debt to the kind of government that allows students to take out loans. And all of this becaue I have to write. If I didn't, I'd have held down two or three very long-term jobs, come home to a little evening's relaxation, lived for weekends, and repeated the cycle ad nauseum. I just can't do it. It's not me, and I literally suffer the consequences. But I also write. I love to write and it fulfulls part of me that no job ever will. But what if writing could be my job? Well that requires getting published and paid for it. and that requires knowing the business of writing. Right now, I'm just like you. Unpublished, working a day job to pay the bills, writing when I can, and dreaming of a day when there is steady work from my writing. But I'm hoping, very soon, to begin to peel away from the thousands of unrealized dreamers out there, and to get published.

I used to think that publishing was a one-time thing. I would magically send in a story or a novel, and suddenly I'd be on the sides of busses and being interviewed in glossy magazines. A movie deal would happen and I'd be a household name. Because that's how it happens, isn't it? No, it doesn't. Even the "overnight" success takes about ten years. At a writer's conference this summer I heard references to a panel entitled: "The Ten-Year Overnight Success Story." I can't teach you to write. But I'm learning that part of getting published is not standing in your own way. The rest of it is staying on top of your submissions, staying in touch with the marketplace, and being organized enough to fuel your own success. This blog is a great example. At this moment, I have not one reader. I have my own professional website. I have a page at MySpace, and I also have several blogs. I have no traffic. But I plan to change that, no matter how slowly it has to happen. Because it's the business of writing.

In the same vein, I also have begun to submit work. First I had to produce the work. Some work is already ten years old, while others I've written in the last few months. Before I became aware of the market, each piece had the same history; I finished it, and then it sat on my hard drive, or in a printed file in a filing cabinet. If they were houseplants or pets, they would have died of neglect. If they were kids, I'd be in prison. As it stands, I'm dusting them of, finding markets, and submitting them. And that's just part of my day. The other part is continuing to write. But I'm finding a rhythm that keeps both parts going. The creating keeps a flow going to the business of writing. And the business keeps tugging at the writing, asking questions, tugging, making suggestions for new angles and new approaches.

My goals for the following year are to publish at least three pieces of short fiction in preparation for submitting a novel. I may end up submitting the novel first, but I've already learned that you stack the deck in your favor by building up credits, even small ones. I've also learned that to get major publishing houses to look at you, it takes an agent. But that doesn't mean I'm only going to submit the novel to agents. I'll also look at medium and small publishers to see if I can't get myself in the door. As much as I need an agent to submit to the majors, I also realize how impressed an agent will be if I can tell them that I managed to get published on my own. Even at a smaller publisher. There is no stamp of approval better than someone besides you liking your work enought to publish it. You can toot your own horn as loud as you want, but it's never quite as loud as the statement that you've gotten published.

I intend to write weekly about my quest to get published. Really my goal is to become independent of my day job. So while there will be a first story and then a first novel, this is not a one-time does it thing. I will continue to climb until I've reached a point where I can truly say I can show you how to publish.