From time to time, someone asks me about my writing.
“Are you still writing?”
“Any more books since Trinity on Tylos?”
Well, not published.
“Are you going to write a sequel to The Gift Horse?”
Well, I should, but I made so many people mad with the first one, that I dunno.
When I think about writing for publication, I think about the best advice I was given, and it is advice I should follow, even today. That gem of wisdom is simply this: Write something short to give yourself some traction. To explore ideas vs. marketability. To build a resumé.
That is good advice. Really. If I had written a story or two about exploited women, and had them rejected, as they undoubtedly would have been, I might have canned the whole idea of finishing The Gift Horse and putting it out as a debut novel. If I had written some science fiction short stories, and if they ended up in anthologies, I might have had more reasons to be selected as a guest at science fiction conventions. And, as a bonus, shorter works take less time to write, and often less time to publication.
Note that I did not say it is easier, because it isn’t. Or it shouldn’t be easier. The shorter the piece, the more polished it should be. Poetry, for instance, is generally far more polished than prose. And fiction is usually more polished than non-fiction. Do you doubt me? Then read the instructions that came with your last purchase; those are often an indictment of the state of non-fiction writing in our times.
For those who have not published, or have not published recently, the best answer might be an article, a short story, or a paid blog entry. Keeping it short is a good idea, but giving it away is probably not. People love freebies, and they don’t like it when they have to pay, especially after they had been reading for free.