There Will Be a Bit of a Delay
I had a solid plan, one that had stood the test of time for many writers, one that had been handed down to me be some of my Clarion writing instructors who were, themselves, brilliant writers. It went like this:
1. Write an imaginative short story.
2. Sell the story.
3. Repeat 3-6 times, or however long it takes to start making a name for yourself.
4. Write a novel (simultaneously with step 3).
5. Sell the novel.
6. Well, you get the picture.
The process derailed for me at step 2. I had gotten through step 1 with no more than the usual new-writer angst. I was ecstatic when I thought I’d sold that story. There was just one concern — the magazine had bought too many stories for its upcoming issues. The editor told me there would be a 12- to 18-month delay before I’d be published.
No problem, I thought. I’d heard of this happening at a number of other magazines from time to time. I’d simply proceed to step 3. Well, the delay stretched to two years. Then three.
Then the magazine went out of business. This was and is, by no means, an unusual event in the publishing business. Editors throw in the towel; anthologies fail to materialize; magazines fold.
“No problem,” the editor said, assuring me that all the stories in inventory would be published in another (lesser) magazine that was buying his inventory.
By then, I had found homes for several other stories. They’d all seen print while that first story languished. At some point during year four, the editor who’d bought the inventory didn’t respond to my attempts to contact him. Worse yet, my contract with the initial publisher didn’t specify a time period for publication before first rights reverted to me. Quite a number of other editors had rejected this story before I’d sold it, so the prospect of withdrawing it and hunting up a new market didn’t appeal. Or maybe I’d just stopped believing in the viability of this story — even after I had sold it. In any event, I decided to wait it out.
Six years after I sold that story, it finally saw print in yet a different magazine under the auspices of that second editor. By then, the thrill of seeing my first story in print had happened several years before. So what I felt at the time was more in the nature of quiet pleasure and relief that the long trial was over.
Rosemary Claire Smith is a writer, attorney, and former archaeologist living just outside Washington, D.C. Her short stories include “Birch Glow,” “Not with a Bang” and Meso-American inspired “The Fifth Sun.” She has been published by Analog, Bastion Science Fiction, The Age of Reason, and elsewhere. You can read more about her work and her dinosaur blog (Blogging the Mesozoic) at http://www.rosemaryclairesmith.net.