Finding Your Path to Writing Success by K.G. Anderson

There’s a reason why they call it a path to success and not a ramble or a meander. Envisioning the steps — some of them painful, some of them thrilling — that take you from beginning writer to published pro can save you time and reduce frustration.

  • You are writing regularly, at whatever pace you’ve set for yourself.
  • You are moving forward as a writer, by whatever measures you use. This could be words written, stories or queries submitted, works published, markets entered, or dollars earned.
  • You are closer to your writing goals now than you were a year ago.

If you meet those three criteria, it’s likely you’ve found a path that’s working for you. Congratulations! But if you’re not making progress in your writing, I’d like to talk a little about the value of paths and how some writers find theirs.

In 2010, after a career as a nonfiction writer, I decided I wanted to publish speculative fiction, specifically short stories, at the professional level. I had no idea how many years that would take. (Answer: in my case, 9).

The first thing people told me was to write, write, write. So I put my butt in the chair, starting with four hours of writing every Tuesday night and then adding regular weekend writing sessions.

The speculative fiction authors I hoped to emulate were quick to tell me that thousands of hours of writing was just the beginning. Some of them attributed their breakthroughs to workshops; others, to critique groups and retreats. Others talked about transformational publishing connections they’d made at conferences or through online professional groups.

So it was clear that I needed to do more than just write. The question was, what?

I mean — there were workshops, critique groups, professional organizations, conventions, retreats, online communities, websites, blogs, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. No one could possibly do it all, could they?

Of course not. The big “aha” for me was the discovery that nearly every successful writer I met had put together a customized path to navigate this crowded landscape — a defined path to take the beginner to pro.

Some did it very deliberately, envisioning every step and then working their way along the path. Others were more experimental, trying one thing at a time, discovering what activities worked for them, and discarding the activities that didn’t. For some people, having a small, tight critique group made all the difference. For others, the key was attending conferences with agents and editors and learning about the market and the industry. For others, it was refining their craft through workshops. For yet others, it was establishing a distinctive voice through a blog or social media, and using that channel to attract interest in their talent and their work.

But it took me three years of throwing myself into just about any activity labeled “speculative fiction writing” — including a few drama-filled “critique” groups and poorly edited anthologies — to realize that I needed to calm down and focus on a viable path.

My path began in 2013 with the week-long Viable Paradise workshop. It focused on what I wanted to write: short fiction. After the workshop, I attended a critique session at Orycon run by a Viable Paradise graduate, Curtis Chen.

By then, I was hearing about online listings for magazines and anthologies that buy short fiction. After checking out three listings sites, I settled on the Submission Grinder, a free service which also lets you track your submissions. I began submitting stories to semi-pro publications and sold my first speculative fiction stories in 2015.

I attended one-day Clarion West workshops taught by Ken Scholes, David D. Levine, and Seanan McGuire. I chose sessions that addressed my specific pain points (like writing endings, and writing for anthologies). I also took online classes, again, dealing with my specific writing challenges, from Dean Wesley Smith.

By this time, I was selling 6 or 7 stories a year to semi-pro markets (many of them indie-published anthologies). In 2018, I made my first pro-level sale. And I joined a critique group of writers who publish with some of the magazines and anthologies where I’ve had work accepted — and with some magazines I aspire to. In 2019 I had enough sales to qualify as a pro with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). My next step? To sell to major magazines.

The strategic path you map out may have quite different landmarks than mine (Agents! Book sales! Self-publishing! Editing an anthology!), but, if you follow it, I’m willing to bet you’ll see progress.


K.G. Anderson is a late-blooming speculative fiction writer. She writes short fiction — urban fantasy, space opera, alternate history, Weird West tales, near-future SF and mystery. Most of her stories focus on families, communities, secrets, and transformations.

She has degrees in psychology and journalism and has supported herself by writing everything from book reviews and political exposes to home repair columns and corporate websites. She was a member of the launch team for Apple’s iTunes Music Store.

K.G. studied at Taos Toolbox, Viable Paradise and Cascade Writers and is a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. You’ll find her stories in Galaxy’s Edge and Luna Station Quarterly, in podcasts from Far Fetched Fables and StarShipSofa, and in anthologies from B Cubed Press and Third Flatiron. In Seattle, she’s part of the Sound of Paper writing group and often reads her stories at Two Hour Transport. You’ll find her at regional conventions such as Foolscap, Orycon, and Norwescon.

She lives in a Scandinavian fishing community just north of downtown Seattle with her partner, bookseller Tom Whitmore, quite a few cats, and thousands upon thousands of books.

Visit https://writerway.com/fiction for a list of K.G.’s publications and links to stories you can read or listen to online. You’ll find her on Twitter @writerway

No Wasted Ink Writers Links

Welcome to No Wasted Ink’s top ten writer article links for science fiction and fantasy readers and writers.  This week is more genre-specific as we explore different ideas and tropes of science fiction and fantasy.  I hope you find them as interesting as I did.

Why Book Reviewing Isn’t Going Anywhere

How Science Fiction Imagined the 2020s

Tell Me You Have Some Of These

Further Reflections on the Mirror Moment

Eight Effective Animal Companions

Input for Writers: 6 Ways to Feed Your Muse

Sci-Fi Set in the 2020’s Predicted a Dim Decade for Humanity

Ten Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About C.S. Lewis

Invested In Not Writing with Dean Wesley Smith

In ‘Agency,’ William Gibson Builds A Bomb That Doesn’t Boom (And That’s OK)

Scifaiku: Planet Pluto

Illustration of Planet Pluto poem

Planet Pluto
in the kuiper belt
dwarves mingle with comets
size doesn’t matter

A Scifaiku by Wendy Van Camp
Illustrated by Wendy Van Camp

This scifaiku poem is inspired by the status of the ninth planet of our solar system. Pluto had been regarded as a planet for decades, but recently was downgraded to being a dwarf planet. There are those who would see this world restored to full planet status.

This poem appears in “The Planets: a scifaiku poetry collection” available on AMAZON.

Scifaiku Poetry Workshop at Janet Goeske Center

Poetry is special to me. I am a published poet of many years and I specialize in scifaiku poetry. This is science fiction themed haiku. This past December, I had the pleasure of teaching a scifaiku poetry workshop in Riverside, CA.

The Janet Goeske Center hosts over 200 classes for the active seniors of its area. The instructor of the literature class, Celena Diana, has been teaching literature at the Center for the past eight years and her class is ongoing and open to members there. She invites readers for their Tuesday Literary Series.

Celena had invited me to be a speaker to her class back in 2018 and we scheduled ahead of full year before I arrived. She told me I could read any of my work to the class. Most of my writing peers had read from their prose. I asked if I could read poetry and talk about the local poetry community. She agreed.

I started the workshop by reading a selection of poems from my new poetry collection “The Planets”. Followed by several of my longer science fiction themed poems. After the reading, I passed around a stack of my scifaiku art prints as a sort of “show & tell” item. These are illustrations of the scifaiku poetry I sell across the United States at various science fiction art shows.

The artwork was a prompt for a long Q&A session. We discussed: journaling, fountain pens, creating artwork with your poems, places to publish science fiction poetry, where to find inspiration, etc. I did not have to pick and choose who to talk to, their teacher handled all that. It made my job easier and it seemed to give confidence to the students.

I finished the Q&A by telling the story of how I became a poet. In “The Poet In Spite of Herself” I explain the accidental way I stumbled into a scifaiku poetry workshop at a local science fiction convention. There I wrote my first scifaiku poem and sold it on the spot. Being budding poets themselves and unsure if they could write a poem in this unique form, the story gave them the confidence that anyone could write scifaiku.

This led to the workshop. Instead of slides, I have a large paper poster board that can folds into a triangle so that it pops up on its own. My analog slides are pre-made for the class. On the back of the poster board, is a functioning whiteboard that I use for brainstorming during the class. I use this because most of the time I am teaching small groups without access to audio/visual supplies. Since this was a large class of 20 with a professional whiteboard on the wall, I ended up using the larger provided whiteboard. The workshop started with explaining the parts of scifaiku, the form that the poetry takes, and how to brainstorm ideas via my method of generating phrases that become the final poem.

I found the group to be exciting to teach because they were a highly creative group of writers delighted to discover a new form of poetry. The class ran longer than the one hour I had been scheduled for, but their teacher told me to go ahead and finish because the students were engaged. At the end of the session, I asked the students to write their scifaiku poem and we would share the poetry after the break.

While the students grabbed a cup of coffee or a snack, I signed a few books, had several further discussions about poetry and illustration before we resumed the workshop. I asked if anyone wanted to read the poem they wrote. Six people raised their hands. The poems they recited were excellent! I was so pleased. As a teacher, you don’t always know how well your class will respond to the course. Evidently, I made a favorable impression. Their teacher Celena kept telling her students to submit their work to their group anthology or to a manuscript they were collating with her guidance. They were excited about poetry and kept telling me what a fun time they had. I had a great time with them too!


I enjoy teaching and prompting poetry in my local area. If your writing group is in the Los Angeles area, I am open to teaching my poetry workshop to your group. Contact me via my website if you are interested.

No Wasted Ink Writers Links

Happy Monday!  This week the top ten writing article links feature a bit about the writing community, bookstores, libraries and two features of two favorites of mine from the science fiction genre. Both Atwood and Gibson are must-reads as far as I’m concerned. I hope you enjoy the articles!

How to Tell a Story Within a Story

Margaret Atwood: Top 5 Tips for Writers

Fantasy Fortifications

Mastering Show, Don’t Tell

Creating Custom Scrivener Templates

Writers: Embrace the Bleak in Your Stories

Indie booksellers create community to survive the age of Amazon

How the decade in books changed what and how we read

HOW LIBRARIES ARE DEALING WITH BEDBUGS

HOW WILLIAM GIBSON KEEPS HIS SCIENCE FICTION REAL

Author Interviews * Book Reviews * Essays * Writer's Links * Scifaiku

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