Last fall, I received an email from novelists Patricia Bray and Joshua Palmatier who also edit anthologies, inviting me to write a story for Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs Aliens. It wasn’t a guaranteed sale. They had some big name authors to anchor the project, allowing a bunch of newer authors to compete for the final story slots. I was part of the latter group. Excited? Absolutely. Nervous? Hell yeah.
I’d come close a few times on previous anthologies and my short stories were starting to get some traction in the markets. I’d sold one story back in 2012, but it was more a fluke than anything. I’d written a story about a gaming thief and sold it to a magazine that specialized in games and loved thieves. Nothing like a great fit to make a sale.
For this anthology, I read some steampunk, researched Victorian times, and pulled my hair out trying to figure out what to write. I really didn’t have much. A few random ideas about a main character, but nothing solid. In the end, I sat down and started hammering out words. A character emerged, with a goal, and people arrived to mess with her. Sounds like a story, or a start of one.
A chapter later, I had a pair of characters and an opening. No, really, a chapter later. I had 3500 words written without getting my character out of the first scene. Novelist problems combined with not planning anything. My first draft of Steamsuit was about 8800 words, far meandering and convoluted. No worries. I just needed to cut most of the beginning, flesh out the characters, fix the ending, and sharpen everything. Yes, I have an S on my chest, but I still need a cape.
I sent Steamsuit to a couple of friends for critique (excluding Joshua Palmatier since he is an editor for the anthology) and they provided me with some excellent feedback, including suggestions to tighten the story up. Thank the gods. Brevity is not my strength, in case you didn’t notice during this post. At the end of December, after yet another revision, the story came in around 5600 words when submitted it for rejection. I mean, for selection. I get those mixed up too often.
January 26th, after what seemed like a year (note: it was less than a month), Patricia Bray emailed me to say they conditionally wanted to publish my story. Cue angelic fanfare. I just had to fix a bunch of things by the end of February. No worries, except that there was quite a bit to fix and part of it stemmed from conflicting character motivations. I hemmed and hawed, as all good procrastinators do. I then emailed Patricia about the motivations and we sorted out what I think was the best course. This resulted in even more changes, but they fixed the motivation issues and really added a nice layer to the character.
After final edits and a run through for typos, the story was officially sold. The entire process definitely developed me as an author. I only hope people enjoy reading the story as much as I loved writing it.