My First Contract

So, it’s weird AF to have a story sale that I can’t really talk about. See, I won a writing contest, and if I blabber too much about it, I might accidentally let something slip and disqualify myself for a rather large “Grand Prize.” So I’ve got to lock myself down and keep quiet and trust that in time I’ll be able to spill ALL OF THE BEANS.

I did get my first ever contract to sign. This is another step, another validation, and it means that after years (and years and years) of hard work I’m starting to produce stories that are worth a damn.

My wife sews, and when her machine runs out of thread without her noticing, she calls it practice sewing. My stories have been like that, in a way. Either I’m so gung-ho about the story that I forget all of the language and nuance and character development and setting (etc, etc) that make for a GOOD story. If I concentrate on that stuff, though, I run the risk of writing thousands and thousands of words where nothing at all happens, but at least the reader can SEE nothing happening.

Practice writing.

Earlier this year, I took the amazing Short Story Mechanics class from Richard Thomas at LitReactor.com. (I’m not sure when he’ll offer it again, but Here’s a link! ) From the very first assignment, I learned something about myself and, more importantly, about my writing. I’ve got gaps in my fiction. Not just plot holes, but logic gaps that might be the foundation for every issue I’ve had in writing for the last fifteen years. (And yes, before you ask, I’ve been ACTIVELY WRITING FOR FIFTEEN YEARS WITHOUT CEASE OR PUBLICATION, EVERY DAY, BUTT IN CHAIR, WORDS ON THE PAGE.) But one class that I wasn’t sure we could afford, but my brilliant and lovely wife INSISTED on getting me for a gift, and I suddenly GOT IT.

Gaps.

The story I wrote for that class got shopped around, rejected by my A-list, but I still believed in it. I sent it, on a whim, to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction after John Langan put up a brief video about having a little faith in yourself and shooting for the moon.

I was rejected.  But! C.C. Finlay, editor of TMoF&SF sent me a lovely personal response. He mentioned one small flaw, but enough to reject the story. He encouraged me to send more stories in the future. (HOW FUCKIN’ COOL IS THAT?!?)

I reread my story, and understood EXACTLY what he was talking about. It was another bastard GAP.

But this one could be fixed with ONE SENTENCE.

I wrote that sentence, grinned at my little story, and sent it off to the contest so I didn’t have to think about it for the rest of the summer. I’d find new markets in the fall. I’d try again. I’d write new stories … maybe even another one I felt was worth sending off to Mr. Finlay.

I forgot about it.

And then I won!

So, I’m staring at my first contract ever, seeing my name, seeing my story, and I’m in tears, man. I can be honest. This is a validation for thousands and thousands of hours and literally millions of words of hard work. On a whim, I reread my story last night, the first time since May 9th when I sent it to the contest, and man, I’m PROUD of it. I think I nailed it. And what’s more, I think I can do it again.

I think that there are plenty more stories locked up in my head, waiting to get out.

So, excuse me while I preen a bit. I’m going to send off my first contract tonight. Sure, it’ll be sent from my work fax, because there ain’t no such thing as quitting a day job because of one sale when you’re looking down the barrel at 40 and you’ve got a family that needs medical insurance and stability, but it will be gone, man. It’s more and more real every day, and next year I’ll have one of my stories in print.

You can bet your ass that next year I’m sending a copy of the published book to Richard Thomas and C.C. Finlay with big fat THANK YOU notes. I’ll probably end up sending copies to a few of the other kind writers who’ve allowed me to befriend them on The Facebook, because I want to share. I don’t know if that’s okay, etiquette-wise, but I don’t give a flyin’ fuck, either. Even if they only use it as a door-stop, I feel like I NEED to thank them for the stories they’ve given me.

But that’s all next year. Now I’ve got to stop talking about this. Like right now. I don’t want to get disqualified.

Plus, if you’re reading this, you’ll hear me the MOMENT I’m allowed to say anything.

Man, I might not shut up about it.

JM

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “My First Contract

  1. Congrats, Jake, and good work.

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