Laura's a journalist and has made her money from writing for years, but has only recently branched out into the world of fiction. It took her a while to get her first hit - just shows how difficult writing stories for the womags is, that even seasoned professional writers find it hard to get an acceptance!
Many thanks to Laura for this article which I hope you will find inspirational. I love hearing about the stories behind the stories as it were, so if anyone else fancies writing a guest post about what inspired them to start writing or write a particular story, please get in touch via the Contact Me page above. (Sadly I can't pay for guest posts.)
OK, enough waffle from me. Over to Laura, and please do go out and buy Fiction Feast this month so you can read Laura's story.
First sale - but one-hit wonder fears
This week the first short story I sold appears in the latest issue of Take a Break Fiction Feast. It’s a story about a woman who cures her panic attacks after watching a programme about the making of Apollo 13 - the film, not the actual space mission!
The idea came to me as I was watching this programme. Something Flight Commander Jim Lovell said struck a chord with me. I thought at the time, “I can use that! It’s a great piece of advice.” I even wrote it down. Then I thought, no, I can do more with this. There’s a story there.
So I wrote it, very quickly, and sent it to Woman’s Weekly as that was the magazine I was mostly targetting at the time. I’d decided at the beginning of last year, 2012, to start writing short stories in the hope that I’d be able to find a new income stream alongside my journalism and PR “comms” work. You can make a living as a writer even in this vicious economic climate. But you need to diversify.
I wrote one story a week starting last January but only at weekends as I wasn’t sure I could make money from it so didn’t want to use weekdays. By the end of May, most of them had come back. I’d only sent out about 11 but was disappointed not to have sold any. I don’t have a lot of time to pursue new markets. It wasn’t working, I thought, so may as well give up.
Writing short stories is great fun and hugely enjoyable. But I’m a lifelong hack. I write for money. I’m not interested in just writing for myself. Yet when my astronaut story came back, and with no feedback, I was a little crushed. I liked that story. A lot. I’ve always been a bit of a space nut, having grown up in the 60s and remembering the first Moon landing. So I contacted Sue Moorcroft who I knew did critiques for writers. I don’t belong to a writers’ group - don’t have time to critique other people’s stuff. I wanted to know if this story could be rescued.
Back it came from Sue with just a few suggested changes. Cut the length. Cut the number of characters, put the two lead people in the room together, not on the phone as I originally had, and make sure the heroine solves the problem. Don’t let someone else solve it.
I did all this and resubbed it, this time to Take a Break.
Meanwhile the rest of my stories had all come back. So I decided to stop trying. The astronaut tale - which had originally been called Don’t Panic - was the last story I had out there. I’d forgotten about it in fact. So when I got an email from Norah McGrath, fiction editor on Take a Break, saying she wanted to buy it, I was stunned! But I also felt a little justified; kind of, I KNEW it was a good story.
You can see for yourselves as it goes on sale Thursday February 7th. Meanwhile I’ve returned to writing short stories, determined this won’t be a one-off; that I won’t be a one-hit wonder. I need to prove to myself that this wasn’t just a lucky fluke. And for that, I need more sales. And for that, I need to write more. Lots more! So I armed myself with Della Galton’s How to Write and Sell Short Storiesand went back to work on my fiction.
This work is like climbing a glass mountain. In the rain. You can’t ever stop for a rest. You have to keep on going. If you can write, believe in yourself and you get good advice - and you’re prepared to ask for, and take, direction - you too can make it as a published author. Tenacity in the face of zero encouragement from editors is what marks out those who get there from those who fall by the wayside. I nearly let myself fall. But Jim Lovell didn’t fall, nor does the heroine in my story and nor will I. Nor should you.