I'm honored to be able to re-post this from one of the authors featured in Space Jockey. Ethan talks about that point that most aspiring writers reach -- when you've been rejected so many times, you think you should just give up. I know he he felt... I've been there too. If that's where you are now, don't give up. I'll let Ethan tell you why....
Farsider, my first sale as an author - Don’t give up
by Ethan Rodgers
In March of this year I told myself that it was time to face facts.
I’d always written casually — it’s been a favorite hobby of mine since
grade school — but nothing had ever come of it. I’d started novels and
given up. I’d written short stories and let them collect dust in the
deep, untouched folders of my laptop. I’d entered writing contests,
wasting 15$ a pop to hear someone say “Sorry, this just isn’t what we’re
There were plenty of negative thoughts overwhelming me. “This is a
waste of time,” “You’ll never be successful,” “There are probably
millions of authors out there who are better writers than you.” This all
may be true. Actually, the latter is absolutely true. But I read
something very interesting in a short story magazine. One of the authors
of the short stories stated “I often find that hopeful authors don’t
lack talent or ability. They simply lack doggedness.”
So I made myself finally commit. I wasn’t going to half-ass it anymore.
The deadline I set for myself was August of 2013. I wanted to be
published – I didn’t care how or in what, but I wanted my name in a
magazine, a blog, a quarterly… something… anything. I joined an online
writing workshop. I started reading books focusing on what I was
interested in writing and books focused on creative writing and editing.
I took down every idea that came to my mind, morning noon and night, in
a journal. And I wrote. Nearly every day I either wrote or
Months passed. I started with magazines like Clarkesworld and
Asimov’s. That was a mistake. I now know that my manuscripts were, more
than likely, relegated to a pile filled with unwanted stories and never
really given a chance. They probably never were even read. The rejection
letters came in faster than spam emails. No critiques or feedback, just
pure rejection. I started a collection in a folder titled “Motivation”
and put every rejection letter in there. I think there is at least
Just before Summer, I started casting my line out a bit farther. I’d
started with the most popular publications with the greatest
circulations. Perhaps this was vanity or maybe laziness, but I realized
that, barring a miracle, I was never going to get noticed. I started
looking for every single SF and Horror magazine I could, joining mailing
lists and finding out who was holding open submissions.
By early July, I realized it was going to take me a lot longer than
six months. Most publications were taking 12 or more weeks just to get
back to me, and all of them were bluntly saying “No thanks.” I had an
interesting decision to make.
While my ultimatum had been completely unrealistic, it was an
ultimatum. I promised myself I’d stop wasting time if this didn’t work. I
promised myself I’d make it just a hobby and quit pretending that I’d
like to write some day. But then I got an interesting comment on my
I’d posted the second draft of a short story titled “Farsider” on the Online Writing Workshop for Science-Fiction, Fantasy and Horror.
The story revolves around a woman named Kendra that flies a cargo ship
far in the future. I wrote it from personal experience, to a degree,
since I’m a pilot, and tried to make the writing simple, crisp, and
similar to what I was reading in SF magazines. The third review simply
said “Please contact me, I’d like to talk with you more about your
story.” It was the publisher of “Misque Press” and an accomplished
author, Tara Maya.
For some time prior I’d be insistent that the style I’d grown to
enjoy writing was what I was going to write. Period. Changing wouldn’t
be true to myself. Now, when I hear some of my friends say they don’t
want to “sell out,” I sort of chuckle. I realized, after receiving the
email and the praise for the piece, that I wasn’t “selling out.” I was
just writing better.
I look back at what I wrote as little as twelve months ago and
cringe. The sentences are long, confusing, and filled with useless
adverbs. The past tense is wordy, inefficient and boring (sort of like
this blog post). The descriptions were lengthy, cliche and useless. I
could pick out a pitfall that every young writer falls prey to in each
and every paragraph. It had only taken me six months to completely
improve my writing style just by reading, learning, and listening. And
all that junk I used to write in, all the fluff and “style” I thought
was part of my writing, was just my misconception of what people thought
was good writing. It was bloated, it was boring, and it was stupid.
So now, if you’re reading this still, my word of advice would be:
stick with it. As long as you enjoy it, don’t let anyone tell you to
stop. Join work shops, listen to critiques, and keep writing. But, most
importantly, don’t think you’re anything until you’re something. You may
think the 3000 word piece you finished last evening was the best thing
you’ll ever write. You may tell yourself “If this isn’t it, than nothing
is.” But I can tell you, with near certainty, that there is probably no
author on the entire planet that has ever finished his first work and
realized it was a manifesto, a gift to humanity, or the apex of his
career. That piece will only be your best piece if you settle for
continuing to write what you’re still writing, which is probably crap
(just like what I write).
Perhaps this will be the only thing I publish ever. Perhaps when you google “Ethan Samuel Rodgers” the piece “Farsider”
will be the only one that pops up. Perhaps I’ll look back when I’m
older and wonder why I wasted so much time on such a fruitless hobby.
But my deadline was August 2013, and today I received a contract to
publish my first short story in a Science-Fiction magazine. And if I can
do it, anyone can.
Tara adds: Space Jockey will be released tomorrow! You can read Ethan's story, Farsider, as well as many other mind-blowing science fiction stories.