I submitted "War Crimes," the story of mine I'm proudest of, to Baen's Universe's online slush pile. Now I feel like a presidential candidate awaiting early returns. While I waited, I read through some of the other submissions and thought, I'm not totally out of my league here. Ew, wait, that's not humble and people like humble. I don't mean I thought I was better than people. A decade and a half of no publications attests that I'm not. Just that I didn't feel unworthy to even approach the slush pile.
I really like that you get to submit and get critiqued at the same time. Nobody comes away completely empty-handed, it seems. Even if they don't end up buying your story, you get a crit out of it.
I intend to crit some of the other stories there while I'm killing time, but I'll wait until I start to get some responses of my own, just to know if I have any business whatsoever telling anybody else how to write. See? The old insecurity always raises its head, no matter how cocky I get.
But at the risk of sounding cocky again--and it's not, it's just the opposite, you'll see--I reread "War Crimes" today and was blown away. Not that I think I'm so good, but that I don't know where the hell that story came from. Even if nobody ever publishes it, if I could write like that every day, I would be beyond ecstatic. There's all these neat places where something early in the story resonates beautifully with something later, and I think, how the hell did I do that? If I could write like that every day, I'd feel legit. I'd feel like I'm not a pretentious knob calling myself a writer, regardless of whether I ever sell a work. Because that was a story I'd like to read.
But I can't write like that. I seem to have one flash of brilliance every two or three years, at best. I'm sure the conventional advice is to keep trying, and of course I will do so. But damn.
I've got a handful of other stories sitting around in my hard drive, but I'm going to wait on them a bit. I'm so impressed with the way Baen seems to work, with the fact that I can get a crit, if nothing else, that I'm inclined to give them first dibs on my stories.
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