A new writer can hardly expect to be handed a more or less sure thing, told to put his mark on it, and end up in print. But, by putting myself in the way of an opportunity, that’s not a bad account of what happened to me.
A few years ago I retired from a regular paycheck to write fulltime. I studied my new job from the bottom up. I read the expert’s hard-nosed advice on its pitfalls. I book-marked their web pages, subscribed to their newsletters, read, and wrote.
Among other insightful bits, those savants declared that being published would help me get published. This chicken-and-egg riddle did not seem very helpful, but I gave it some thought and found a starting point.
If you can’t get around or over a hurdle, find a lower hurdle.
I needed a place that wanted writers and was willing to accept someone short on experience. A successful if small jump over that first fence would make the next easier.
I found my opportunity in another piece of advice: volunteer. My interest in history led me to the local historical society ready to do anything that they needed done. My goal was to get to know people and find a way to write for one of their magazines.
When the photo archivist asked me to organize a scrapbook donated by a WWII field artilleryman, I showed him the story hidden in the hodgepodge of letters and photographs. He suggested that I write it up. I did, and the society published it. I took on several other projects and used the resulting articles to crack the chicken-and-egg cycle with other editors.
My biggest break came when the friendly archivist handed me a sixty-year old memoir in need of an editor. My previous work and interest in the project secured the approval of the society’s director. An editor at the University of South Carolina Press, another helpful society regular, read a sample chapter, and a contract followed. The Press will publish my annotated work this summer.
I never doubted that I would eventually see a book published with my name on it. I was happy to find a way to achieve that goal sooner than otherwise. Now, with a book and many shorter pieces under my belt, I’m stepping up to the next hurdle.
Larry A. Grant was born in McAlester, OK. His family moved to California when he was four years old, and he lived in the Golden State until he left home at nineteen to enlist in the Coast Guard. After two trips to Antarctica and one to the Arctic, he enrolled at the University of California in San Diego. He earned an MA in history but found that there was no market for his historical skills upon graduation. He accepted a commission in the US Navy and served at sea for most of the next twenty-three years, touching at every continent that he had not previously visited. His work sent him to Italy for three years and to Belgium for two. He retired from the Navy after a tour at NATO headquarters, and returned to Charleston, SC, the site of a previous homeport, to write and enjoy himself.
BAM Advanced Fiction Techniques: First Pages
There are three basic ways to hook readers. Do you know what they are?