Wake up, Polly Parrot.


Small Victories
by Brian Plante

A writing career in genre fiction may be looked at as a series of small victories (and failures too, but we'll confine ourselves to the positive side here). Perhaps a small percentage of writers burst onto the scene with their very first work, like Robert Heinlein and Stephen King, but it's too depressing to think about freaks of nature like them. After ten years of writing, it's much too late for me to "burst onto the scene," so I have to look at this thing as a series of smaller steps.

Right from the start, I kept good records, so I can tell you my first small victory was in March of 1991, when I began writing my first serious story. The story picked up 19 rejections before it finally found a home. By then, I'd written and sent out other stories, so another small victory was my first fiction sale in April of 1993. That's right -- I'd been writing two full years before I got my first sale, for a whopping $32 from a short-lived semi-pro magazine that few people would remember today. But for me, it was a sweet victory.

There were a few more sales to semi-pro markets, each one another step along the way, until October 1994, when I learned that I had won a second-place prize in the Writers Of The Future contest. That one was a fairly large victory at the time -- my first "pro" sale, with high pay and a free trip to a science fiction workshop.

More victories piled up: My first sale to one of the major pro magazines; first critical review of my work; first mention in Locus; first anthology sale; first reprint sale; first "honorable mention" in Gardner Dozois' annual The Year's Best SF; first Nebula Award nomination; first appearance on the Nebula preliminary ballot; first award won (an Anlab).

Sounds pretty impressive listed like that, doesn't it? The fact that there are so many "firsts" out there to be achieved is your basic carrot-on-a-stick ploy -- there's always some new goal to reach out for.

But if you think my writing career has been just one easy victory after another, let me point out that there are many more victories I have yet to attain. There are lots, but a few of them are:

  • First cover story.
  • First lead story in a magazine or anthology.
  • First invitation to a closed anthology.
  • First reprint in a "best of the year" anthology (that one almost happened -- a story of mine was picked to appear in a "best of" to be edited by Kris Rusch & Martin Greenberg, but that book never came off).
  • First novel. (I keep saying I'm going to do this soon, but still haven't written one yet. That will be a sizeable victory for me.)
  • First Nebula and Hugo awards.
  • First option and sale to Hollywood.
As you can see, I have many more victories to look forward to. Okay, so those last couple are a bit iffy -- a lot of good writers never get that far -- but I can hope, can't I? Not all my victories have to be small ones. Victory is mine!

Copyright © 2001 Brian Plante

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