On Selling a Story

NB: This post was originally published on 8/18/2014. I’m migrating some old posts from my previous author website and WP won’t let me change the date of publication to reflect when I actually wrote the post.

CW: This post contains ableist language. I’ve since realized how harmful using these terms can be, and am working hard to keep them out of my vocabulary.


After years of scribbling madly, researching writer’s guidelines and possible markets, mailing and emailing, and desperately waiting by my inbox as reading periods drew to their ends, I’ve finally sold a short story.

It won’t be in print until next year, but I just signed the contract and sent it to the publisher. It was one of my newer stories, and I’d submitted it to several places only to be rejected. It was sitting in my dropbox folder, wasting away, when one of the many magazines I follow through social media posted an update. It was accepting submissions. (THIS IS ONE OF THE REASONS SOCIAL MEDIA CAN BE INVALUABLE TO WRITERS.) In a burst of inspiration, I opened the story and tore through it, changing the ending and cutting, cutting, cutting until it fit within the confines of the magazine’s word count limit.

And then I waited. And nearly forgot I’d submitted. And saw a reply in my inbox yesterday, nearly flinching as I clicked on the subject and opened to read. I’ve become so accustomed to getting rejections that I never even thought it would be an acceptance. I’m a novelist and short stories don’t come easy to me. They usually just morph into inciting incidents, way too big and juicy to be constrained to a few thousand words. This one had that potential as well, and I’ve got enormous plans for this protagonist and her world. But, I managed to wrangle this particular idea into short story form after deciding that it wasn’t how I needed to start my first novel in this series.

Sure, I’m still a long way from having “made it” as an author. I’ve sold one story out of the countless stories and novels I have to sell. I still have a day job (and, honestly, probably will even if I ever do “make it,” because I like to keep in touch with the world and, every so often, slip on some daytime clothes and leave my house). So, why does the sale of one story matter so much? Because now I know that there are people in the world who I don’t know, am not related to, and have no influence over who LIKE MY WRITING, my characters, and my world enough to put them out into the world, and to pay me for the privilege.

What can I say? It’s a pretty magical feeling.

“To survive, you must tell stories.” –Umberto Eco

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