Friday, June 8, 2018

A Few Words of Encouragement from Gardner Dozois


Back in the day, when I was a scrawny gonnabe writer, Gardner Dozois used to offer me encouragement. We'd be sitting around in his apartment and he'd leaf through the new issue of Asimov's, suddenly stop, and say, "You know, Michael, this story is even suckier than yours."

"Gee, thanks, Gardner," I'd reply.

He'd leaf some more. "Here's another story that sucks worse than yours."

"I really appreciate that, Gardner."

Flip, flip, flip. "I don't see why that story of yours shouldn't sell. There are lots of stories here suckier than yours."

"God bless you for saying that, Gardner."

But, as time would prove, he had a point. There were indeed stories even suckier than mine and that meant that sooner or later mine was going to sell. As it did.

New writers should take this to heart. Your stories don't actually have to be good to be published. Just less sucky than the worst of what is already being published. The bar is set a lot lower than you thought.

You can always be good after you've made that first sale.


1 comment:

Sandy said...

I agree, Michael. That sort of keeps me going. Actually, it needs a hungry and perceptive editor (both at the same moment!) like Ted White, who bought my only (so far) published story.
For example, if I was the editor when Cordwainer Smith's story "Scanners Live in Vain" came across my desk I would have rejected it as imcomprehensible. But his "The Game of Rat and Dragon" I would have bought with a cry of joy and put it on the front cover of the magazine! Captain Wow, indeed! I mean that story should be in an anthology aimed at introducing young people to science fiction. Any fool would have bought the second story, but the first one required real perception.