Or so my thoughts go. I entered a short short story contest last month, hosted by American Short Fiction. I wrote “Stoop” in February, and spent weeks editing and revising, cutting the story down to the required 1,000 words or less, coming in at 906 words. I tried to let several of my friends read the story to get their thoughts–only two replied. But it was positive commentary. Entering the contest I didn’t expect to win.
And, of course, I didn’t win, and even though that was my expectation, it still hurt, because I put a lot of work into that story. As an award to the losers and to make them feel better, the magazine posted on their website, “Great job! Thanks to all who entered; it was a difficult choice!” I’m sure it was.
After I wiped away my tears, I did some thinking; writing has been my favorite activity since 5th grade, writing a trilogy inspired by a video game, and it was fun. Okay, the main character killed terrorists for a living, a little violent for an 11 year-old, but still, I get three books out of it. And after I finished each book, I designed my own cover art, stapled the pages, and then wrote a summary on the back. It was awesome. After that, I moved on to the next idea.
Then I thought about how many I’ve read on writing. On Writing Well, A Writer’s Companion, Sol Stein on Writing, On Becoming a Novelist, and The Art of Fiction. I haven’t read a single book on publishing. That means since the 5th grade I have cared more about the writing process, perfecting the art of writing, than getting published. William Zinsser, author of On Writing Well, was once asked to give a writer some advice on getting published. Zinsser said he didn’t know anything about getting published, and didn’t care about publishing. He always says, “Fear the final product.” Don’t feel your head with the results of having finished your work: fame, money, interviews, autographs, movie deals. Concentrate on the writing process.
In fact, none of the books on writing I’ve read ever say, “With these tools, you’re ready to get published.” No! Their mission is to help the reader improve their writing. John Gardner, author if The Art of Fiction and On Becoming a Novelist, spends a few pages writing about publication in On Becoming a Novelist, but at the end of the book, and after spending hundreds of pages talking about writing a novel.
I shouldn’t care too much about publication; just perfect the craft of writing. That’s the key. And if I want to publish something I can do it on the Internet.
And that brings me to the idea I have, but that’s for another post.