New Post has been published on Jamie Todd Rubin

New Post has been published on http://www.jamierubin.net/2014/04/17/going-paperless-is-now-on-reddit/

Going Paperless is Now on Reddit

For you redditors out there, as of today, there is now a Going Paperless subreddit which contains links to nearly all of my Going Paperless posts to date.  If you prefer that platform, or use it frequently, feel free to join the discussion there. You don’t have to, of course. Things will continue as normal here. I’m fairly new to Reddit and still finding my way around, but I think I’m beginning to get the hang of it and I’ll be monitoring the goingpaperless subreddit there, responding to comments, answering questions, and of course, adding links to new Going Paperless posts. In Reddit terminology, the subreddit is:

/r/goingpaperless

And as a reminder, this week you can ask me anything about Going Paperless. I’ve gotten quite a few good questions so far, and I’m happy to answer more if you have them. Head over to this post to ask your question, or see what questions have already been asked and answered.

New Post has been published on Jamie Todd Rubin

New Post has been published on http://www.jamierubin.net/2014/04/16/the-9-phases-i-went-through-to-become-a-writer/

The 9 Phases I Went Through to Become a Writer

I submitted my very first story back in early January 1993 and I have been submitting stories ever since. Back when I started, I wanted to believe that one day, I’d sell a story, but I didn’t quite dare to. It’s funny to look back over the path that persistence takes you through. I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, if for no other reason, to show what I went through with the thought that others go through the same thing.

I’ve identified 9 distinct phases to the evolution of my writing career. They are not all equal in duration, and some of them overlap, but I went through all of them, and continue to go through some of them.

1. The Newbie (1993)

I decided that I wanted to be a writer, and that was enough. I was in my junior year of college and I told everyone around me, whether they wanted to hear it or not, that I was a writer. I wrote a dozen stories in rapid succession without knowing anything about how to tell a story. I wrote sex stories and sent them to Playboy thinking that is what the magazine published. I wrote science fiction stories and sent them to the science fiction magazines. I wrote a story about a cat and sent it to Cat Fancy.  I collected, with glee, my first rejection slips. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was writer, dammit.

The big lesson for me here: read the market guidelines! Otherwise you’re just wasting time (and in the early-mid 1990s, postage).

2. The Fanboy (1994-1996)

I read a lot of autobiographical work by my idols, and decided I was going to be just like them. When I was in my Piers Anthony phase and received a rejection, I took Piers Anthony’s attitude that the editor was an idiot. Moreover, I didn’t just want to be like my idols, I assumed I already was. If Isaac Asimov could write a good story in an hour and sell it two hours later, well, by God, so could I. After all, I had all of the experience of three or fours months. And I had the rejection letters to prove to anyone who asked that I was a Real Writer.

The big lesson for me here: I am not Isaac Asimov or Piers Anthony. I am me and I had to figure out my own strengths and weaknesses and not pretend others.

3. The Impressionist (1996-1997)

Have you ever had a friend who claimed to be a great impressionist, and who, after making such a claim, went on to do a Ronald Reagan impersonation that sounded exactly like your friend and nothing like Ronald Reagan? Well, I felt like I was the Rich Little of science fiction, and my favorite impression was Harlan Ellison. During this phase, every story that flowed from my pen was written in what I perceived to be the Voice of Harlan Ellison. This is incredibly painful and embarrassing to admit, for as you might imagine, my impression of Harlan’s writing was like that friend’s impression of Ronald Reagan. But when I finally burned through this phase, I turned the first major corner in my evolution as a writer. I’d gotten the newbie, the fanboy and the impressionist out of my system. I had become, in fact…

The big lesson for me here: Voice needs to emerge naturally in a story. If you try to fake it or imitate another writer’s voice, readers can tell.

4. The Beginner (1998-2002)

I deliberately began to set aside attempts to be like my heroes and write like my heroes and instead find my own voice. I also began to write stories that, at last, had distinct beginnings, middles, and endings. If only I could have started from here, but the truth is, I think I had to go through those first three phases, if for no other reason, to learn first hand how to do things the wrong way. It was during this phase that I received my first two personal rejection slips. The first came from Kristine Kathryn Rusch, back when she was editor of F&SF. The second came from Algis Budrys when he was editor of Tomorrow.

The big lesson for me here: Editors really do read what you submit. And they take the time to provide feedback on those submissions they feel warrant it.

5. The Student (1997-present)

I tried to learn everything I could, not just about writing, but about the genre that I loved so much, science fiction. I skimmed a few books on the subject of writing, but I’ve always been hesitate about how-to books when it comes to writing. My sense was (and generally, still is) that each person has to find their own way of doing things, and what works well for one person, may not work so well for another. But the education I got from my reading of the genre was invaluable. I read David Hartwell’s Age of Wonders and made a list of a dozen or more books he cited, fiction, to read. It was a real branching out for me and served to show the amazing things that could be done by talented writer.

It was around this time that I began to find the method that worked best for me when writing my own stories: know how the story will end before you start. My problem was the once I figured out the ending, I rarely deviated from that, even if the story wanted to take me in other directions. I continued to submit stories, although at a slower pace than before. I collected mostly form letter rejection slips, but an occasional personal rejection came in now and then.

The big lesson for me here: You don’t know it all, and you never will. Reading is just as important to being a writer as writing is.

6. The Rookie (2002-2007)

I’d written a pair of novelettes that I thought were pretty good, even taking into consideration the pitfalls I’d already encountered. I’d submitted them around to all of the major short fiction markets and they’d been roundly rejected. One of these, a story called “Shunting the Trolley,” I decided to retire. The other story, a fun somewhat Heinleinesque novelette called, “When I Kissed the Learned Astronomer” I really liked and didn’t want to give up on. I decided to submit it to Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show magazine, which was relatively new at the time, having put out just 3 issue. I submitted the story and a year passed before I heard anything.

Meanwhile, I continued to write stories. Not frequently, but when I did write a story, it had what I thought was a solid structure. Also, I felt that I’d conquered the opening. I could write a lead-in hook that was as good as any out there. My problem was that often, the rest of the story simply didn’t live up to the opening hook.

Almost a year to the day after I submitted “Learned Astronomer,” I received an email from the editor of the magazine, Edmund Schubert, expressing interest in the story. We went back and forth through a round of revisions, and finally, he accepted the story. A few weeks later I received a contract, and a few weeks after that, I received my first check, $500, for something I had written in my spare time for the sheer pleasure of writing. The story was published in the July 2007 issue of the magazine. I was a professional writer, based on Stephen King’s definition of that term1

The big lesson for me here: Persistence and patience are two key virtues of being a writer.

7. The Broken Record (2007-2008)

When my kids do something I think is funny, and I laugh, they immediately try to replicate what they had just done in order to get me to laugh again. It is sometimes funny the second time, amusing the third time, and by the fourth and fifth time, I feel ready to move on, and only stick with them because I don’t want to upset them. Adults behave this way, too, sometimes, and I certainly did after that first story sale.

Several of the next stories I wrote were attempts to capture whatever magic had worked for “Learned Astronomer.” The problem was, I had little idea of what worked in that story in the first place. Edmund had said he loved the voice in that story, and so naturally, I wrote several stories in which I overcooked the voice. The strange thing for me is now, looking back on the list of titles I wrote in the wake of that first sale, while I remember the stories and while they were not as nearly as bad as the stories I wrote in the early phases of my development as a writer, I don’t remember sitting down and writing them.

I submitted more during this phase, but received a slew of rejections, most of them form letters, which admittedly stung because I thought that, having sold one story, I’d crossed some magic line. I even received rejections from IGMS, which felt like a big step backwards after making a sale there.

The big lesson for me here: There is no magic line, there is no secret to getting a story published. Like Stephen King says, you have to read a lot and write a lot, and learn as much as you can from your efforts.

8. The Journeyman (2008-2011)

With that first sale, however, came my formal entry into the science fiction community. I attended my first science fiction convention. I joined SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. I joined a local writer’s group, and I began communicating online with other writers, almost all of whom eventually became my friends. I found mentors in this community, as well as people who burned with the same passion for writing and for science fiction as I did.

And I continued to write. I sold a story I had written years earlier to Apex Magazine and then, after 2 lengthy personal rejection slips from Stan Schmidt, sold a new story to Analog, which was like a dream come true for me. I was home with my little boy on the day I learned of that sale. He wasn’t feeling well. We were downstairs in the family room. I had my laptop on a table on one side of the room, and I’d been playing with him. I glanced at my email and saw the name Stan Schmidt in my inbox. I looked at the message which began, “Dear Mr. Rubin, I’m buying ‘Take One for the Road’ for Analog…” and I jumped up in the air screaming, and in the process, frightening the little man into tears.

The big lesson for me here: When an editor says that they like your writing and please submit again they really mean it. That is exactly what Stan said to me in those first two rejections slips, and clearly, he meant it.

9. The Writer (2012-present)

I’d say that it really wasn’t until early 2013 that I crossed the threshold into the “Writer” phase. It was then that I began to write every single day. Indeed, since late February 2013, I’ve written 411 of the last 413 days. There are only two days in that time when I didn’t write anything, and I had pretty good (although not great) excuses each time.

I wrote the first draft of my first novel during that time, and then I went on to write 3 new stories, one of which sold 4 hours after I submitted it. I wrote and sold four pieces of nonfiction. I wrote a regular book review column for InterGalactic Medicine Show. I found beta-readers in the community willing to read my stories and provide useful feedback, and I do the same for them. I volunteered for SFWA, acting as this years Nebula Awards Commissioner. I sold a story to an original anthology, had a story reprinted, and had an audio version of my first story produced.

But mostly, I write every single day. I have a schedule in mind for each of my writing projects, and I have evolved a process that works very good for me and helps me to produce the best possible story that I can manage.

I still receive rejections slips, although I will admit that it has been a while since I’ve received a form letter rejection. Rejection slips always sting, but these days, I have enough experience to try to learn from every rejection I receive. And perhaps most important, I feel like I’ve earned the title, “Writer.” I worked for 22 years to get to this point, and have the scars and victories to show for it. There are plenty of writers out there who did it a lot more quickly (and probably more easily) than I did, but we all start out with different levels of talent and determination. I had little of the former but a lot of the latter.

The big lesson here for me: I can’t say, yet. I’m still relatively new to this phase. Ask me again in a year or two.

Enjoy these posts? – Tell a friend

Recommending readers is one of the highest compliments you can pay to a writer. If you enjoy what you read here, or you find the posts useful, tell a friend! Find me online here:

Twitter | Facebook | Google+ | Blog | RSS

Or use one of the share buttons below. Thanks for reading!

Notes

  1. King has written that if you’ve written a story, submitted the story, had the story accepted and received a check for the story which you were able to cash and use to pay your heating oil bill, then by God, you’re a pro.
New Post has been published on Jamie Todd Rubin

New Post has been published on http://www.jamierubin.net/2014/04/16/the-9-phases-i-went-through-to-become-a-writer/

The 9 Phases I Went Through to Become a Writer

I submitted my very first story back in early January 1993 and I have been submitting stories ever since. Back when I started, I wanted to believe that one day, I’d sell a story, but I didn’t quite dare to. It’s funny to look back over the path that persistence takes you through. I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, if for no other reason, to show what I went through with the thought that others go through the same thing.

I’ve identified 9 distinct phases to the evolution of my writing career. They are not all equal in duration, and some of them overlap, but I went through all of them, and continue to go through some of them.

1. The Newbie (1993)

I decided that I wanted to be a writer, and that was enough. I was in my junior year of college and I told everyone around me, whether they wanted to hear it or not, that I was a writer. I wrote a dozen stories in rapid succession without knowing anything about how to tell a story. I wrote sex stories and sent them to Playboy thinking that is what the magazine published. I wrote science fiction stories and sent them to the science fiction magazines. I wrote a story about a cat and sent it to Cat Fancy.  I collected, with glee, my first rejection slips. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was writer, dammit.

The big lesson for me here: read the market guidelines! Otherwise you’re just wasting time (and in the early-mid 1990s, postage).

2. The Fanboy (1994-1996)

I read a lot of autobiographical work by my idols, and decided I was going to be just like them. When I was in my Piers Anthony phase and received a rejection, I took Piers Anthony’s attitude that the editor was an idiot. Moreover, I didn’t just want to be like my idols, I assumed I already was. If Isaac Asimov could write a good story in an hour and sell it two hours later, well, by God, so could I. After all, I had all of the experience of three or fours months. And I had the rejection letters to prove to anyone who asked that I was a Real Writer.

The big lesson for me here: I am not Isaac Asimov or Piers Anthony. I am me and I had to figure out my own strengths and weaknesses and not pretend others.

3. The Impressionist (1996-1997)

Have you ever had a friend who claimed to be a great impressionist, and who, after making such a claim, went on to do a Ronald Reagan impersonation that sounded exactly like your friend and nothing like Ronald Reagan? Well, I felt like I was the Rich Little of science fiction, and my favorite impression was Harlan Ellison. During this phase, every story that flowed from my pen was written in what I perceived to be the Voice of Harlan Ellison. This is incredibly painful and embarrassing to admit, for as you might imagine, my impression of Harlan’s writing was like that friend’s impression of Ronald Reagan. But when I finally burned through this phase, I turned the first major corner in my evolution as a writer. I’d gotten the newbie, the fanboy and the impressionist out of my system. I had become, in fact…

The big lesson for me here: Voice needs to emerge naturally in a story. If you try to fake it or imitate another writer’s voice, readers can tell.

4. The Beginner (1998-2002)

I deliberately began to set aside attempts to be like my heroes and write like my heroes and instead find my own voice. I also began to write stories that, at last, had distinct beginnings, middles, and endings. If only I could have started from here, but the truth is, I think I had to go through those first three phases, if for no other reason, to learn first hand how to do things the wrong way. It was during this phase that I received my first two personal rejection slips. The first came from Kristine Kathryn Rusch, back when she was editor of F&SF. The second came from Algis Budrys when he was editor of Tomorrow.

The big lesson for me here: Editors really do read what you submit. And they take the time to provide feedback on those submissions they feel warrant it.

5. The Student (1997-present)

I tried to learn everything I could, not just about writing, but about the genre that I loved so much, science fiction. I skimmed a few books on the subject of writing, but I’ve always been hesitate about how-to books when it comes to writing. My sense was (and generally, still is) that each person has to find their own way of doing things, and what works well for one person, may not work so well for another. But the education I got from my reading of the genre was invaluable. I read David Hartwell’s Age of Wonders and made a list of a dozen or more books he cited, fiction, to read. It was a real branching out for me and served to show the amazing things that could be done by talented writer.

It was around this time that I began to find the method that worked best for me when writing my own stories: know how the story will end before you start. My problem was the once I figured out the ending, I rarely deviated from that, even if the story wanted to take me in other directions. I continued to submit stories, although at a slower pace than before. I collected mostly form letter rejection slips, but an occasional personal rejection came in now and then.

The big lesson for me here: You don’t know it all, and you never will. Reading is just as important to being a writer as writing is.

6. The Rookie (2002-2007)

I’d written a pair of novelettes that I thought were pretty good, even taking into consideration the pitfalls I’d already encountered. I’d submitted them around to all of the major short fiction markets and they’d been roundly rejected. One of these, a story called “Shunting the Trolley,” I decided to retire. The other story, a fun somewhat Heinleinesque novelette called, “When I Kissed the Learned Astronomer” I really liked and didn’t want to give up on. I decided to submit it to Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show magazine, which was relatively new at the time, having put out just 3 issue. I submitted the story and a year passed before I heard anything.

Meanwhile, I continued to write stories. Not frequently, but when I did write a story, it had what I thought was a solid structure. Also, I felt that I’d conquered the opening. I could write a lead-in hook that was as good as any out there. My problem was that often, the rest of the story simply didn’t live up to the opening hook.

Almost a year to the day after I submitted “Learned Astronomer,” I received an email from the editor of the magazine, Edmund Schubert, expressing interest in the story. We went back and forth through a round of revisions, and finally, he accepted the story. A few weeks later I received a contract, and a few weeks after that, I received my first check, $500, for something I had written in my spare time for the sheer pleasure of writing. The story was published in the July 2007 issue of the magazine. I was a professional writer, based on Stephen King’s definition of that term1

The big lesson for me here: Persistence and patience are two key virtues of being a writer.

7. The Broken Record (2007-2008)

When my kids do something I think is funny, and I laugh, they immediately try to replicate what they had just done in order to get me to laugh again. It is sometimes funny the second time, amusing the third time, and by the fourth and fifth time, I feel ready to move on, and only stick with them because I don’t want to upset them. Adults behave this way, too, sometimes, and I certainly did after that first story sale.

Several of the next stories I wrote were attempts to capture whatever magic had worked for “Learned Astronomer.” The problem was, I had little idea of what worked in that story in the first place. Edmund had said he loved the voice in that story, and so naturally, I wrote several stories in which I overcooked the voice. The strange thing for me is now, looking back on the list of titles I wrote in the wake of that first sale, while I remember the stories and while they were not as nearly as bad as the stories I wrote in the early phases of my development as a writer, I don’t remember sitting down and writing them.

I submitted more during this phase, but received a slew of rejections, most of them form letters, which admittedly stung because I thought that, having sold one story, I’d crossed some magic line. I even received rejections from IGMS, which felt like a big step backwards after making a sale there.

The big lesson for me here: There is no magic line, there is no secret to getting a story published. Like Stephen King says, you have to read a lot and write a lot, and learn as much as you can from your efforts.

8. The Journeyman (2008-2011)

With that first sale, however, came my formal entry into the science fiction community. I attended my first science fiction convention. I joined SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. I joined a local writer’s group, and I began communicating online with other writers, almost all of whom eventually became my friends. I found mentors in this community, as well as people who burned with the same passion for writing and for science fiction as I did.

And I continued to write. I sold a story I had written years earlier to Apex Magazine and then, after 2 lengthy personal rejection slips from Stan Schmidt, sold a new story to Analog, which was like a dream come true for me. I was home with my little boy on the day I learned of that sale. He wasn’t feeling well. We were downstairs in the family room. I had my laptop on a table on one side of the room, and I’d been playing with him. I glanced at my email and saw the name Stan Schmidt in my inbox. I looked at the message which began, “Dear Mr. Rubin, I’m buying ‘Take One for the Road’ for Analog…” and I jumped up in the air screaming, and in the process, frightening the little man into tears.

The big lesson for me here: When an editor says that they like your writing and please submit again they really mean it. That is exactly what Stan said to me in those first two rejections slips, and clearly, he meant it.

9. The Writer (2012-present)

I’d say that it really wasn’t until early 2013 that I crossed the threshold into the “Writer” phase. It was then that I began to write every single day. Indeed, since late February 2013, I’ve written 411 of the last 413 days. There are only two days in that time when I didn’t write anything, and I had pretty good (although not great) excuses each time.

I wrote the first draft of my first novel during that time, and then I went on to write 3 new stories, one of which sold 4 hours after I submitted it. I wrote and sold four pieces of nonfiction. I wrote a regular book review column for InterGalactic Medicine Show. I found beta-readers in the community willing to read my stories and provide useful feedback, and I do the same for them. I volunteered for SFWA, acting as this years Nebula Awards Commissioner. I sold a story to an original anthology, had a story reprinted, and had an audio version of my first story produced.

But mostly, I write every single day. I have a schedule in mind for each of my writing projects, and I have evolved a process that works very good for me and helps me to produce the best possible story that I can manage.

I still receive rejections slips, although I will admit that it has been a while since I’ve received a form letter rejection. Rejection slips always sting, but these days, I have enough experience to try to learn from every rejection I receive. And perhaps most important, I feel like I’ve earned the title, “Writer.” I worked for 22 years to get to this point, and have the scars and victories to show for it. There are plenty of writers out there who did it a lot more quickly (and probably more easily) than I did, but we all start out with different levels of talent and determination. I had little of the former but a lot of the latter.

The big lesson here for me: I can’t say, yet. I’m still relatively new to this phase. Ask me again in a year or two.

Enjoy these posts? – Tell a friend

Recommending readers is one of the highest compliments you can pay to a writer. If you enjoy what you read here, or you find the posts useful, tell a friend! Find me online here:

Twitter | Facebook | Google+ | Blog | RSS

Or use one of the share buttons below. Thanks for reading!

Notes

  1. King has written that if you’ve written a story, submitted the story, had the story accepted and received a check for the story which you were able to cash and use to pay your heating oil bill, then by God, you’re a pro.
New Post has been published on Jamie Todd Rubin

New Post has been published on http://www.jamierubin.net/2014/04/16/the-9-phases-i-went-through-to-become-a-writer/

The 9 Phases I Went Through to Become a Writer

I submitted my very first story back in early January 1993 and I have been submitting stories ever since. Back when I started, I wanted to believe that one day, I’d sell a story, but I didn’t quite dare to. It’s funny to look back over the path that persistence takes you through. I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, if for no other reason, to show what I went through with the thought that others go through the same thing.

I’ve identified 9 distinct phases to the evolution of my writing career. They are not all equal in duration, and some of them overlap, but I went through all of them, and continue to go through some of them.

1. The Newbie (1993)

I decided that I wanted to be a writer, and that was enough. I was in my junior year of college and I told everyone around me, whether they wanted to hear it or not, that I was a writer. I wrote a dozen stories in rapid succession without knowing anything about how to tell a story. I wrote sex stories and sent them to Playboy thinking that is what the magazine published. I wrote science fiction stories and sent them to the science fiction magazines. I wrote a story about a cat and sent it to Cat Fancy.  I collected, with glee, my first rejection slips. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was writer, dammit.

The big lesson for me here: read the market guidelines! Otherwise you’re just wasting time (and in the early-mid 1990s, postage).

2. The Fanboy (1994-1996)

I read a lot of autobiographical work by my idols, and decided I was going to be just like them. When I was in my Piers Anthony phase and received a rejection, I took Piers Anthony’s attitude that the editor was an idiot. Moreover, I didn’t just want to be like my idols, I assumed I already was. If Isaac Asimov could write a good story in an hour and sell it two hours later, well, by God, so could I. After all, I had all of the experience of three or fours months. And I had the rejection letters to prove to anyone who asked that I was a Real Writer.

The big lesson for me here: I am not Isaac Asimov or Piers Anthony. I am me and I had to figure out my own strengths and weaknesses and not pretend others.

3. The Impressionist (1996-1997)

Have you ever had a friend who claimed to be a great impressionist, and who, after making such a claim, went on to do a Ronald Reagan impersonation that sounded exactly like your friend and nothing like Ronald Reagan? Well, I felt like I was the Rich Little of science fiction, and my favorite impression was Harlan Ellison. During this phase, every story that flowed from my pen was written in what I perceived to be the Voice of Harlan Ellison. This is incredibly painful and embarrassing to admit, for as you might imagine, my impression of Harlan’s writing was like that friend’s impression of Ronald Reagan. But when I finally burned through this phase, I turned the first major corner in my evolution as a writer. I’d gotten the newbie, the fanboy and the impressionist out of my system. I had become, in fact…

The big lesson for me here: Voice needs to emerge naturally in a story. If you try to fake it or imitate another writer’s voice, readers can tell.

4. The Beginner (1998-2002)

I deliberately began to set aside attempts to be like my heroes and write like my heroes and instead find my own voice. I also began to write stories that, at last, had distinct beginnings, middles, and endings. If only I could have started from here, but the truth is, I think I had to go through those first three phases, if for no other reason, to learn first hand how to do things the wrong way. It was during this phase that I received my first two personal rejection slips. The first came from Kristine Kathryn Rusch, back when she was editor of F&SF. The second came from Algis Budrys when he was editor of Tomorrow.

The big lesson for me here: Editors really do read what you submit. And they take the time to provide feedback on those submissions they feel warrant it.

5. The Student (1997-present)

I tried to learn everything I could, not just about writing, but about the genre that I loved so much, science fiction. I skimmed a few books on the subject of writing, but I’ve always been hesitate about how-to books when it comes to writing. My sense was (and generally, still is) that each person has to find their own way of doing things, and what works well for one person, may not work so well for another. But the education I got from my reading of the genre was invaluable. I read David Hartwell’s Age of Wonders and made a list of a dozen or more books he cited, fiction, to read. It was a real branching out for me and served to show the amazing things that could be done by talented writer.

It was around this time that I began to find the method that worked best for me when writing my own stories: know how the story will end before you start. My problem was the once I figured out the ending, I rarely deviated from that, even if the story wanted to take me in other directions. I continued to submit stories, although at a slower pace than before. I collected mostly form letter rejection slips, but an occasional personal rejection came in now and then.

The big lesson for me here: You don’t know it all, and you never will. Reading is just as important to being a writer as writing is.

6. The Rookie (2002-2007)

I’d written a pair of novelettes that I thought were pretty good, even taking into consideration the pitfalls I’d already encountered. I’d submitted them around to all of the major short fiction markets and they’d been roundly rejected. One of these, a story called “Shunting the Trolley,” I decided to retire. The other story, a fun somewhat Heinleinesque novelette called, “When I Kissed the Learned Astronomer” I really liked and didn’t want to give up on. I decided to submit it to Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show magazine, which was relatively new at the time, having put out just 3 issue. I submitted the story and a year passed before I heard anything.

Meanwhile, I continued to write stories. Not frequently, but when I did write a story, it had what I thought was a solid structure. Also, I felt that I’d conquered the opening. I could write a lead-in hook that was as good as any out there. My problem was that often, the rest of the story simply didn’t live up to the opening hook.

Almost a year to the day after I submitted “Learned Astronomer,” I received an email from the editor of the magazine, Edmund Schubert, expressing interest in the story. We went back and forth through a round of revisions, and finally, he accepted the story. A few weeks later I received a contract, and a few weeks after that, I received my first check, $500, for something I had written in my spare time for the sheer pleasure of writing. The story was published in the July 2007 issue of the magazine. I was a professional writer, based on Stephen King’s definition of that term1

The big lesson for me here: Persistence and patience are two key virtues of being a writer.

7. The Broken Record (2007-2008)

When my kids do something I think is funny, and I laugh, they immediately try to replicate what they had just done in order to get me to laugh again. It is sometimes funny the second time, amusing the third time, and by the fourth and fifth time, I feel ready to move on, and only stick with them because I don’t want to upset them. Adults behave this way, too, sometimes, and I certainly did after that first story sale.

Several of the next stories I wrote were attempts to capture whatever magic had worked for “Learned Astronomer.” The problem was, I had little idea of what worked in that story in the first place. Edmund had said he loved the voice in that story, and so naturally, I wrote several stories in which I overcooked the voice. The strange thing for me is now, looking back on the list of titles I wrote in the wake of that first sale, while I remember the stories and while they were not as nearly as bad as the stories I wrote in the early phases of my development as a writer, I don’t remember sitting down and writing them.

I submitted more during this phase, but received a slew of rejections, most of them form letters, which admittedly stung because I thought that, having sold one story, I’d crossed some magic line. I even received rejections from IGMS, which felt like a big step backwards after making a sale there.

The big lesson for me here: There is no magic line, there is no secret to getting a story published. Like Stephen King says, you have to read a lot and write a lot, and learn as much as you can from your efforts.

8. The Journeyman (2008-2011)

With that first sale, however, came my formal entry into the science fiction community. I attended my first science fiction convention. I joined SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. I joined a local writer’s group, and I began communicating online with other writers, almost all of whom eventually became my friends. I found mentors in this community, as well as people who burned with the same passion for writing and for science fiction as I did.

And I continued to write. I sold a story I had written years earlier to Apex Magazine and then, after 2 lengthy personal rejection slips from Stan Schmidt, sold a new story to Analog, which was like a dream come true for me. I was home with my little boy on the day I learned of that sale. He wasn’t feeling well. We were downstairs in the family room. I had my laptop on a table on one side of the room, and I’d been playing with him. I glanced at my email and saw the name Stan Schmidt in my inbox. I looked at the message which began, “Dear Mr. Rubin, I’m buying ‘Take One for the Road’ for Analog…” and I jumped up in the air screaming, and in the process, frightening the little man into tears.

The big lesson for me here: When an editor says that they like your writing and please submit again they really mean it. That is exactly what Stan said to me in those first two rejections slips, and clearly, he meant it.

9. The Writer (2012-present)

I’d say that it really wasn’t until early 2013 that I crossed the threshold into the “Writer” phase. It was then that I began to write every single day. Indeed, since late February 2013, I’ve written 411 of the last 413 days. There are only two days in that time when I didn’t write anything, and I had pretty good (although not great) excuses each time.

I wrote the first draft of my first novel during that time, and then I went on to write 3 new stories, one of which sold 4 hours after I submitted it. I wrote and sold four pieces of nonfiction. I wrote a regular book review column for InterGalactic Medicine Show. I found beta-readers in the community willing to read my stories and provide useful feedback, and I do the same for them. I volunteered for SFWA, acting as this years Nebula Awards Commissioner. I sold a story to an original anthology, had a story reprinted, and had an audio version of my first story produced.

But mostly, I write every single day. I have a schedule in mind for each of my writing projects, and I have evolved a process that works very good for me and helps me to produce the best possible story that I can manage.

I still receive rejections slips, although I will admit that it has been a while since I’ve received a form letter rejection. Rejection slips always sting, but these days, I have enough experience to try to learn from every rejection I receive. And perhaps most important, I feel like I’ve earned the title, “Writer.” I worked for 22 years to get to this point, and have the scars and victories to show for it. There are plenty of writers out there who did it a lot more quickly (and probably more easily) than I did, but we all start out with different levels of talent and determination. I had little of the former but a lot of the latter.

The big lesson here for me: I can’t say, yet. I’m still relatively new to this phase. Ask me again in a year or two.

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Notes

  1. King has written that if you’ve written a story, submitted the story, had the story accepted and received a check for the story which you were able to cash and use to pay your heating oil bill, then by God, you’re a pro.
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The Elusive 10,000 Hours

A week or so ago, I calculated how much time I spend writing each day, based on 400 days worth of data that I’d collected1. The data showed that I average about 42 minutes and 15 seconds of writing time per day. I have written every day for the last 267 days, and I’ve only missed 2 days out of the last 410. So I am writing every day.

This is the first period of time in my life where this has been true, although I have been writing stories now for more than 20 years. Prior to 2013, I wrote in small, dense scraps of time, producing one, or maybe two stories a year, and spending perhaps a total of 20 hours writing for the entire year. However, from February 27, 2013 to the present moment, I’ve spend about 289 hours of my life writing.

In the big picture, it is not all that much. In that same span of time, I’ve spent about 2,400 hours of my life at the day job. I’ve spent approximately 2,700 hours sleeping. The time I have for writing is roughly 1/10th the time I spend at my day job and 1/11th the time I spent sleeping.

I was thinking about this in the context of the 10,000 hours that it supposedly takes to become an expert at something. 10,000 hours sounds like a lot, but in practice, it really isn’t. If you could work at something–say, writing–for 8 hours a day, you’d hit your 10,000 hours in less than 5 years. Even half time, you’d still hit your 10,000 hours within a decade.

But I don’t have that kind of time. I can spend, on average, about 45 minutes/day on my writing. Occasionally, I can spend more time, but that is offset by the days that I spend less time.  Which means that even writing every day of the year, which I do, I’m spending less than 300 hours a year writing. It’s not difficult to take that number and figure out how long before I hit my 10,000 hours. Excluding everything that came before last February as marginal (I’ve written more in the last 400 days than in the last 20 years put together), it will, at my present pace, take me nearly thirty-eight more years to hit that magic 10,000 hours. At which time, I will be 80 years old.

This assumes, of course, a steady-state, and that is unlikely. I try to set goals that are obtainable when it comes to my writing, things that are in my control. Rather than have a goal to sell 10 stories or win some award, I pick things like: average 1.5 hours of writing per day by the end of 2015. Where will the time come from? That is part of the challenge. I don’t want to take away from family time. That leaves other areas of my life. I’m not giving up my day job, and I’ve more or less optimized my sleep. That leaves little wiggle room.

So I’ve started to prioritize what’s important. I started the second draft of my novel a few days ago, and I recently gave up my book review column at InterGalactic Medicine Show, and yes, the two are related. This was a paying writing gig, but the time it took can be redistributed toward my writing. Then, too, I am constantly on the lookout for ways I can automate things so that I don’t need to spend time on them.

I try to keep my goals modest, but I would love it if I could reach the stage where I could write 2 hours per day. That’s 2.9 times what I currently manage, and that means cutting my time to hit 10,000 hours from 38 more years down to 13 years. Now we’re talking. I’ll be around 55 years old and much closer to thinking about retirement from the day job. And with the practice and expertise I will have gathered from 10,000 hours of writing, who knows, maybe at that point, I’ll be able to support the family with my writing.

Notes

  1. 412 as of today.
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Going Paperless: Ask Me Anything About Paperless, Evernote or Automation

I noticed earlier in the week that it has been 8 months since I last had an open Going Paperless post in which folks could ask me questions about paperless, Evernote, or automation. I’ve been getting more and more questions via email, and so I figured now was as good a time as any to invite people to ask me anything about going paperless, using Evernote, or paperless automation. I will do my best to answer all of the questions as best as I can.

I am happy to answer questions that I’ve already answered before (I’m kind of used to that) but, you might consider checking some of these links to see if I have answered the questions already. You can still ask, I just thought I’d try to save folks some time for the more frequently asked questions:

My processes evolve so some of the answers I gave in the above links may be different today.

In any case, if you’ve ever wanted to ask me a question about going paperless, using Evernote, or automating processes (which is easier when you are paperless), ask away in the comments and I will do my best to answer throughout the week.


If you have a suggestion for a future Going Paperless post, let know me. Send it to me at feedback [at] jamietoddrubin.com. As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts is also available on Pinterest.

Last week’s post:  3 Ways I Annotate Notes in Evernote to Make Life a Little Easier.

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Beginning the Second Draft of My Novel

Yesterday, I started writing the second draft of my novel. I finished the first draft back in mid-September. I wrote 1,200 words, and overall, it felt pretty good. I think I’m still trying to find just the right voice, but I feel it coming on, and I imagine I’ll have it soon.

What surprised me most is how quickly I was able to get back into the mindset of the novel. Between finishing the first draft and starting the second draft, I wrote four other stories, and several nonfiction pieces. I thought it might be difficult to immerse myself back in the world that I created, and the characters that live there. It turned out to be surprisingly easy.

Moreover, I find myself in the mental “zone” of the story. I think other writers get this, but I’m not sure non-writers will understand. It basically means that my mind is firing on all cylinders, whether I’m actually writing the story, or just thinking about it as I walk, or go throughout my day. The focus is there. It’s like a pitcher who is throwing a perfect game into the sixth or seventh inning. I’m cruising and it feels great.

It has a wonderful secondary side-effect: it serves as a constant release value for stress. I’ve mentioned before how writing each day, even if the writing isn’t great, is always a stress reliever for me. Being in the zone for this story is like having a constant stress-relief valve open to relieve the pressure in a constant stream.

Bottom line, I was a little nervous to get started, but once I did, it felt great. I wonder if this is how writers who have been writing novels for a long time feel when they start on their second drafts?

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Derek Jeter’s Philosophy of Preparing for Baseball also Applies to Writing

When I was watching the press conference prior to the Yankees home-opener against the Orioles last week, I saw Derek Jeter interviewed. He was asked at one point about his success in 1996 and not being able to predict his career path then, but how could he be so confident that he would focus on baseball and not get caught up in any distractions. What he said in response resonated with me, because in many ways, it was what I think about writing. (The question comes at the 6:45 mark if you want to jump right to it.)

What Jeter says (with a little cleaning up on my part) is:

I came up in a culture where you were never promised a job. We had to perform in order to keep our job and that’s the mindset we had going into every season… If you didn’t do your job, the boss would get rid of you. So every spring training, every off-season, I trained and prepared for the opportunity to win a job. So I never take anything for granted.

I very much believe in this philosophy when it comes to my own writing. Almost no writer is promised a job (e.g. a story sale, a novel sale, etc.) at the outset of his or her career. You have to earn it. For a rare set of people, this may not be difficult. There are geniuses in all walks of life. But for me, it meant 14 years of practice, 14 years of persistence, and 14 years of enough self-confidence to believe that I could eventually do it. And as Jeter points out, that is just the beginning. “If you didn’t do your job, the boss would get rid of you.” I put in my best effort on every story that I write. Not all of them are good enough and I don’t win every job.

Still, I practice every day. I write every day. I try new things in my stories, and while I am no all-star, I think I am making steady improvements. What Jeter says is something that I thinks irks some new writers trying to break in and make their first sale, be it a novel or a story. There is a belief out there that writing really isn’t that hard, that there is some formula or trick to getting published–or, if self-publishing, being a success. If there is, I don’t know it. The only trick I know is working as hard as I can at something I love. As Jeter says, I never take the job for granted, never assume that a story of mine will be published, and never assume that just because one story had a measure of success, another deserves equal success.

For me, however, I like the hard work. The satisfaction of seeing a story in print and knowing how much of an effort you put in to make it a success is worth every minute of effort.

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Another Good Review for Beyond the Sun edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Yesterday, I learned of another positive review for the Beyond the Sun anthology edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt.

Bryan put together a great lineup of stories in this anthology, and this review in True Review specifically calls out stories by Brad R. Torgersen (“The Bricks of Eta Cassiopeiae”), Alex Shvartsman (“The Far Side of the Wilderness,” a story I adored, by the way), Jason Sanford (“Rumspringa”), Robert Silverberg (“The Dybbyk of Mazel Tov IV”), and Mike Resnick (“Observation Post”).

Congrats to Bryan and all of the authors included in the anthology for its continued positive praise.

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Retiring From My Book Review Column at IGMS

I recently retired from my book review column, “The Science of Wonder” over at InterGalactic Medicine Show. I wrote a bimonthly book review column there and my column ran for roughly 2 years. It was a lot of fun, but the reading for the column became increasingly too much for me to handle given the other things I am working on.

I am grateful to Edmund Schubert for giving me the opportunity to write a science fiction book review column. It was a good experience and I hope that readers found the reviews useful.

I will almost certainly continue to review an occasional book here on the blog, but I think I am done with formal book reviews for the duration.