I dug into the 2010 edition of "The Year's Best Science Fiction" anthology last night and came across a story I had critiqued almost two years ago. The writer, Ian Creasey, submitted the story "Erosion" to the Critters online critique group; because he had been kind enough to critique two of my submissions, I wanted to return the favor. I found quickly, though, that Mr. Creasey's skill level was so far above mine that there wasn't much helpful I could say. Mostly, I said the story was wonderful and left it at that. I often wondered who bought the story (because, I figured, sale was inevitable). Now I know.
Coming across that story again made me remember some advice Mr. Creasey gave to me in a critique for the first story I ever wrote. The story was quite horrible, which he was kind enough not to say to me. I kept the critique (dated 9/18/2008), and here was what he wrote at the end of it:
"My advice would be to NOT submit any of your early stories for publication, not until at least two or three years have passed. As you practise writing, you will improve considerably, and you will look back on your early efforts and see how they can be rewritten to be much stronger. But you can only submit a story to any given market once. If you submit an early version to a particular market, and you later improve the story, you can't submit it again to that market."
Good advice. I read it and remembered it. I also didn't follow it. I didn't have the patience to wait that long.
So here I am, almost two years later, taking stock. First off, I'm still writing, which is the most important thing, and I think every story I write is better than the one before it. I'm also submitting what I write. So far, I have made two sales, to Science Fiction Trails and Every Day Fiction, for a total income that would buy a pizza but not much more. I have entered the Writers of the Future contest for six straight quarters, resulting in three honorable mentions, two rejections and a pending reply.
If what Mr. Creasey suggested turns out to be true for me -- that it takes two to three years of practice to become a decent enough writer that some editor might want to buy my story -- then I hope I'm getting close. I feel like I am. I think that if I were asked now to critique that story I first saw two years ago, I might have something helpful to say.