Recipe for Becoming a Published Writer
By Karina Fabian
Start with a pinch of inspiration: Yeah, that’s right—a pinch. Ideas are a dime a dozen; it’s what you do with them that determines whether you’re a writer or some guy with a cool thought.
Toss it into a heap of BICHOK: Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard. You cannot be a writer unless you get those words out of your head and into the computer. (Yes, they have to be electronic—gone are the days when magazines take your handwritten stories.)
Add a liberal amount of education (yeah, pun intended.): It’s not just enough to sling words together. You need to have a grasp of basic grammar, plot and characterization, and the accepted norms for your genre—and that’s just to write a book you can market to publishers. Then you really need to get a basic understanding of the biz’. Not only will that help you find a good publisher, but it can help you avoid expensive mistakes. Fortunately, there are a lot of terrific online writers’ conferences now, plus http://thewriterschatroom.com, which has Wednesday night chats specifically about writing. There’s no excuse not to be informed.
Stir in the edits: My own system is this:
1. Spell check/grammar check via computer, taking its suggestions with a grain of salt because the computer can be very stupid.
2. Read again for content.
3. Print up and read aloud for flow of language.
4. Read it BACKWARD, one sentence at a time, for typos, grammar errors, etc.
5. Somewhere in there, I send it out for critiques. My crit buddies not only look for the usual typo/spelling/word use junk, but they tell me when a chapter doesn’t work, when I drop a plot aspect, if I repeat myself, etc.
Season with your tears: I don’t care how good you are—you will get rejections. You will have someone who will tear apart your precious prose (and maybe rightly so). You will have that review that makes you want to scream. Welcome to the rollercoaster of publishing.
But in the end, when that book comes out of the publishing oven, it will be delicious.
How this recipe worked for Infinite Space, Infinite God II:
Inspiration: We were lucky here. The publisher for ISIG I asked us to do another. How inspiring can you get? Rob and I enjoyed doing the anthologies because we like reading, discovering great stories, helping authors find a home for their unique works, and creating something truly unusual. ISIG II is excellent science fiction with engaging heroes in amazing situations in time, space, and virtual reality. The stories have one common thread—they involve Catholics and the Catholic faith, working together with science to better the world (personal or universal.)
BICHOK: This was a different kind. Not only did I write some stories for the anthology, but I spent a lot of time networking, seeking submissions, reading submissions, rejecting submissions, accepting submissions, working contract issues… Once we had the stories, we compiled them, put them in order and wrote introductions.
Education: Having done two anthologies before, I had a good idea how this worked. However, because ISIG II features Catholic characters, I had to do some research to make sure all the theology and practices were correct. Also, we had to double check the science where necessary. Fortunately, I married a space operations officer and a SF aficionado.
Edits: Oh, what fun. Not only did we have to edit for the usual content and grammar issues, but we had to make sure everyone’s formatting was consistent, work with authors to make changes (yes, we asked some of them to alter their accepted stories.) It was checked, printed, read aloud, read backward…
Tears: I don’t get upset about rejections, bad reviews, etc. anymore, but there was some hair pulling. Submitted stories that were so wrong you wonder if folks read the guidelines. A couple of stories that were insulting anti-Catholic. Extending the deadline because we didn’t get enough good stories. Waiting for months and months while the publisher kept her pulse on the economy to see when it was a good time to publish. Marketing, marketing, marketing to promote the book.
The end result: Infinite Space, Infinite God II—classic sci-fi adventures people of all faiths can enjoy, but with a unique look at a religion that’s been around for 2000 years and counting. Even if we never see a profit from it, we are very proud of what we cooked up.