Writer Career Path Meme

Pro-writer career path meme via Vylar Kaftan.

(Note: “Pro” here I’m just defining as SFWA pro, or, well, someone who sells stuff to pro markets. I’m not a pro in the sense of not having a day job. Lots of writers aren’t, but non-writers may or may not assume this. So when we say pro, it doesn’t always mean full-time.)

Current Status as of now:

  • 4 stories in circulation (I’ve been pretty busy, so this is slumpy)
  • many stories awaiting rewrite
  • 1 or 2 stories waiting for particular markets to open up
  • not sure how many stories completed but trunked
  • 5 or 6 complete drafts that I haven’t decided whether to polish or trunk
  • dozens of partial story drafts (I figure it’s best I know how to jump ship, but I never junk any of them)
  • 3 complete novel drafts, one trunked, one trashed, and one awaiting rewrite
  • no current novel draft, but just wait, buddy, it’s coming soon!
  • 1 partial novel drafts, trunked — I haven’t started one that I didn’t finish, except “beyond the wall”. Maybe that’s bad.
  • dozens of poems, in varied but currently idle state.
  • eight poems currently out at markets. (Some of those are at close to a full year at LCRW; would you query, or wait more?)
  • one installment of my current column waiting for a conclusion and polish-up
  • all of this and more is sitting in a single file folder copied onto every hard drive I own. I am thinking of backing up stuff on Google Docs or something. Paranoia is a good thing in this department, though.

Age when I decided I wanted to be a writer: 11, and then again at 25, after a long detour through jazz saxophone and avant-garde music composition.

Age when I wrote my first story: 8. It about Jontor Moogna Zintor, a barbarian warrior. It took place in a world (with a map, of course!) that featured different countries, one for each sentient species. Land of the Unicorns. Land of the Orcs. Land of the Talking Pumpkins.

Age when I got my hands on a typewriter: I used my Dad’s in elementary school. Then his computer, running an awful word processor called “Fontasy” in DOS, I think, in my first few years of university. Then around 1993 I discovered modern word processors, and then the Internet, and oh my.

Age when I first submitted a short story to a magazine: 25, I think? It was titled “touch.” It was published. That was the St. Thomas More College literary magazine, “In Medias Res.” It was sorta cyberpunk by someone who’d never read cyberpunk. Not so great, but cute girls said it reminded them of William Gibson, and I said, “Man, I gotta read him sometime!”

Thickness of file of rejection slips prior to first story sale: Pretty thin, I guess? I got a rejection from Tesseracts back in the late 90s, and

Age when I sold my first short story: 32. “Junk,” which was published in Nature. There’s a link in my sidebar. (The first acceptance was somewhere else, but this was the first sale that proceeded to completed payment.)

Age when I killed my first market: I haven’t yet.

Approximate number of short stories/novelettes/novellas sold for copies (small press): Fiction? None, though only because the webzine Flurb doesn’t have “copies.” That was my one unpaid fiction publication, though, since “touch,” and I was glad of it, as lots of people saw the story that way! (Thank you, Rudy Rucker!) Poetry’s another story, though it’s still only a few. One forthcoming, about foreigners in Korea. I’ll toss a PDF online if Scott isn’t going to…

Approximate number of short stories/novelettes/novellas sold for cash money: Well, for cheques (nobody pays in cash) I’ve sold eight stories for money, and have one more that’s to pay me

Age when I first sold a poem: People get paid for poems? No, wait, they do. I’ve sold a few poems, but only recently. To Diet Soap. They’re forthcoming.

Age when I wrote my first novel/book: Ah, Manichean Jazz. It was horrible. I was 25, newly single, miserable, and it was an ode to my friends who kept me falling apart. Told via the story of a dead man in a living city, or was it the other way around? I think the file has been lost, and good riddance.

Non-psychotherapeutic writing-wise, my first attempt at a novel ran from 2001-2004. Very complex, and the final attempt to rewrite the novel that I discovered Greg Egan had already written better, and then again. (Which I dramatized in my story published at Flurb, see the link in the sidebar if you like.)

The next serious attempt at a novel came in 2005, with a Bangsian fantasy of expat unlife in Korea. Still planning to go into a third rewrite sometime, but I want to get a proper full novel out first. About this British kid born in northern India in the late 1800s or so…

Oh, I forgot my first attempt, a half-written novel draft titled “beyond the wall” about an Inuit-dominated society with a space program checking out long-lost colony worlds including one where a large proportion of the planet has a condition suspiciously similar to Williams Syndrome. (The mystery being the problem of how and why this has developed, and remained sustainable.)

Age when I attended Clarion West: In 2006, I was 32.

Age when a work was first shortlisted for an award: I haven’t been.

Awards won: None yet, I think. I did get the Susan Petrey Memorial Scholarship to help me get across the pond to Clarion West back in 2006, though.

Age when I became a full-time writer: I’ll let you know.

Age now: 34.

Consider this a journal meme: if you write professionally, feel free to post your own equivalent of this list. (Obviously you’ll need to customize it to track your career path — but you get the idea.)

8 thoughts on “Writer Career Path Meme

  1. Charles,

    Sorry! If it’s any consolation, I’ve gotten very little done on fiction the last few months.

    Also, what the hell? You’ve been writing papers. That counts. Really.

  2. Well, I suppose writing papers counts in one area, but I’d sure like to count in other areas as well.

    Of course, I have no one to blame for myself. You’re just an external focus for my impotent rage.

    Or something like that.

    Hope you’re feeling better, by the way. I’m just getting over a nice, full day of really nasty illness…

  3. Ugh! Maybe like what I have? I’m edging back to normal, though I still have trouble hearing out my left ear, from some kind of nasty congestion up in there somewhere…

    Actually, writing papers can count in other areas, if you can find a way to use what you’ve figured out in your fiction. You like fantasy, and you’re researching a related topic, right? So, bang, synergy.

    Don’t blame yourself. Don’t rage. It’s counterproductive. Just write. :)

  4. lcrw has pretty long RTs, still, at a year I might query in case it got lost. good luck on that one!!

    (Ha, Land of the Talking Pumpkins! I wasn’t writing stories at that time, but I drew elaborate Oz-like maps with things like that. And drew characters and made up their personalities. Um, worldbuilding and character study… yeah, this is why it took me ages to figure out what plot was.)

  5. Thanks, Tina, I think I will query sometime soon. (Though I know someone else who waited a year, actually.)

    I’m not surprised you went the route of maps, worldbuilding, and drawing characters. Actually, I did that a lot too, but via the RPG route. Which is why plot was always an issue for me, too — I GMed a lot and my players never followed the preordained plot at all!

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