When you write for a living (or part of a living), it’s difficult not to get discouraged. Take me, for example. I’m regularly disappointed to learn of fantastic anthologies coming out — books I would give me eye teeth to be a part of — but I only hear about them AFTER they’ve selected all the authors they want. That’s happened to me many times, and even in several cases where the editor or publisher knew of my interest and blew me off anyway. It can be tough not to take it personally.
Part of the problem is, of course, that I’m a D- or even E-list writer. Nobody has heard of me — much less read something I’ve written — so I’m not on anybody’s “list” of people to contact when putting together a group of writers to invite to submit a story. I’d like to think I’ve written a few good stories, but without wider distribution, it’s a real challenge to get noticed.
It’s difficult not to feel jealous when someone else — someone I consider to be “in my league” — lands a spot on the table of contents for a cool-sounding story collection. A colleague of mine is fond of a saying she came across: “Writing is not a competition. Someone else’s success does not diminish you or your talent.” That’s certainly true: I feel great for them, that they’re getting this opportunity to show what they can do. At the same time, I can’t help but ask “Why not me?” It can be intensely frustrating.
Now I’m going to share one secret to help combat this problem.
It isn’t a perfect solution, but the more people you know in the business, the more likely you’ll hear about upcoming opportunities. Then you’ll be prepared when the initial call for submissions goes out. You may be in the room when an editor begins to spitball ideas for that Steampunk/Anthropomorphic animal/romance anthology he or she has been toying with for years. Maybe you’ll meet a big-name editor at a convention, and have a chance to briefly pitch an idea for your novel or for an anthology you’d like to edit. It takes time, patience, and above all, writers need to continue writing, to hone their craft so that when the opportunity DOES arise, your story will not only pass muster, it’ll be GOOD. That’s what it’s all about.
I will continue writing. And I DID have lunch with a group of people last year that included a big-name editor. That person told me that my novel pitch was interesting, and they would like a chance to look at it when it’s ready. So far it’s not, but I keep adding to it, getting closer to being finished so I can then take a sharp pen to it and make it all shiny.
Keep your fingers crossed for me!