Have you read Stephen King’s On Writing?
Have you read it lately? I’ll wait.
You read that book and you start to think to yourself that there’s a certain joy to be had in climbing the slow ladder of fiction. That through submissions of dozens of stories to magazines, you’ll be able to earn your place with an agent and a publisher.
I don’t know if that world really exists anymore – the number of places publishing and paying for fiction, at least in any real denomination, for someone starting out, seems to be declining. Or they’re hard to find.
But, after re-reading the book this past weekend on a pair of longish flights from California, I think that the point of what King did during his short-story period wasn’t the actual publishing. It wasn’t the selling of stories to the magazines that helped him so much.
It was the writing of them. The practice of crafting characters and situations, oddball and not. Submitting to magazines provided that extra bit of motivation that might have been lacking otherwise. That push to keep him putting words down on the page that eventually built the foundation that led to King’s novels.
I have, right now, a novel and a novella done (though still in need of editing work) and, while they’re fun, I have no illusions about them being great works of fiction. I’m going to self-publish them, and finish out the short series, because it’s a lesson. A long one, but important.
So even if you’re not dishing tales to mags on a weekly basis, even if you don’t have a nail covered in rejection slips, keep on writing. Because everything you put down makes the next thing a little better, a little tastier to the readers. Heck, it’s what this blog is for.