I have been reading science fiction since I was in the 5th grade in elementary school. I didn’t get the bug to try writing it myself until I retired. Part of that was that I did poorly in school in my English classes. My spelling is not very good and my grammar tends to fall back into the Pennsylvania Dutch expressions my family used. I never was able to diagram sentences to the satisfaction of my teachers who loved to create complicated sentences that would illustrate some obscure point of grammar. It all seemed stupid and pointless to me.
I had already started on my first book when I read about Baen Publishing starting an e-zine and soliciting stories. I had never in my life tried to write a short story, but I figured it couldn’t be that hard. I wrote “Common Ground” and posted it to the Slush for the magazine on Baen’s website. It got a lot of comments and I made some changes to it. But a couple posters were very kind about it, one saying it was a “wonderful” story. Perhaps that reader feedback helped me, it certainly couldn’t have hurt.
I got a letter from Eric Flint the Editor that gave a great deal of advice. He pointed out all the perils of using dialect as I had in the beginning of the story, especially dialect of such a complex language as Russian. He freely admitted he avoided it himself because it was so difficult. I got the feeling I was above myself a bit to think a novice such as myself could presume to wield such advanced tools.
He intimated also that he was not fond of cute endings, which definitely described the story, and to my amazement concluded the letter by saying he was going to purchase the story. That wasn’t where I thought he was going at all.
Eric was right about dialect. However I got some help from a native speaker who cleaned up my errors and changed the form of the name I’d used to reflect a male when I’d used the female form in error.
Jim Baen’s Universe was discontinued. They bought first use only so I retained the other rights. I published “Common Ground” on Amazon/Kindle, but as a novella it has not attracted any attention even at 99¢. I’m going to bundle it with several other short stories and sell them together. Perhaps that will be better received.
I was perhaps spoiled by selling my first story immediately. I had an aunt who wrote all her adult life and had three full size filing cabinets full of manuscripts. She felt it was just a matter of selling ONE story and when she had her foot in the door all that copy she had created would sell and she’d be sitting on a gold mine of back-copy. Truth was she wrote Christian literature for children that was wretched and had no market. But she never lost faith that eventually someone would buy it. Personally I’d rather be spoiled.
Mac, this is wonderful. I love hearing the stories behind your stories! Please keep going with them.