“If this is not what you expected, please alter your expectations.”
Mark Morford

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

You Can't Win If You Don't Play
Mon 2011-03-21 21:37:42 (in context)
  • 700 words (if poetry, lines) long

I do not habitually buy lottery tickets. In fact, I don't buy lottery tickets. Pretty much ever.

Once upon a time, John and I were driving down a highway in West Texas, looking for a place to spend the night. No hotels were forthcoming. We took an exit out of sheer hope and found ourselves driving down a significantly smaller highway with no end in sight. Nor light. We passed a sign that said CATTLE IN ROAD. We started wondering if we were not on a highway at all.

John said, "I really hope we don't get shot." (Have I told this story before?)

I said, "Don't say that! Don't even say a thing like that!" He looked surprised, and a little hurt, and a lot confused. I dialed it back and tried to explain. "I just feel like, saying a thing makes it more likely to happen. I'm not comfortable giving voice to the things I don't want to happen."

He nodded. There was silence for a moment while we got the car turned around and headed back for the honest-to-goodness interstate highway. Finally, John said, brightly, "Gee, I hope we don't win the lottery..."

But of course neither of us buys lottery tickets. We do, however, play in other lottery-like things. John is going to Gen Con this year as, for the first time, a vendor; he and some close friends have been designing role-playing game systems. They're going to show one of 'em off. And as for me, well, I submit short stories in hopes of finding people willing to pay me for the right to publish 'em.

It's a lot like the lottery in some ways. Well, it's a lot unlike the lottery. Regardless of what some cynics will tell you about either industry, neither game nor fiction publication are matters of pure chance. Quality comes into it. Once you reach a certain level of quality, then we can talk about chance: getting the story in front of the right editor, making the connection with the right game publishers, etc. But you can't get a chance until you've got a product of sufficient quality to be worth putting in front of the potential customer. And you don't stand a chance getting it in front of the right editor/publisher/agent until you've done sufficient homework to aim for one who's a good fit with what you're selling. And you don't just buy a ticket to play; you have to make the ticket yourself, out of star dust and unicorn tears. Seriously. Also blood and sweat and time and patience and more blood and sweat and time.

But it's just like the lottery in that you can't win if you don't play.

It occurs to me that of late I have been playing only very rarely, and this may have something to do with the slow rate of publication I've been experiencing. "I have this crazy theory..."

And it also occurs to me that it was very pleasant to report a certain amount of money for "sale of short fiction" on the portion of our household income taxes described as Income Not Reported Anywhere Else. I should like to do more of that, please.

Hence more submitting.

"Right Door, Wrong Time" is on its way to, possibly, a new home. Its previous home vanished from the internet sometime early last year; the small press Twilight Tales and their website TwilightTales.com would appear to be no more. I'd like to get it out there again, so into the slush it goes.