Tag Archives: SFWA

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

Book Review: The Forever War

Book Name: The Forever War
Author: Joe Haldeman
First Published: 1974
Nebula Award winner, 1975; Hugo and Locus SF Awards winner, 1976

Joe Haldeman, an American author, traveled a great deal as a child, living mainly in Anchorage, Alaska and Bethesda, Maryland. He married Mary Gay Potter (who inspired the name of the main character’s love interest in The Forever War) in 1965. Haldeman received his BS degree in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Maryland in 1967. That same year, he was drafted into the United States Army as a Combat Engineer and served a tour of duty in Vietnam. He was wounded in combat and received a Purple Heart. The ideas of the military and the culture shock that soldiers go through when returning from war in his award winning novel The Forever War were inspired by this combat experience. In 1975, he earned an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Currently, Joe Haldeman resides in either Gainesville, Florida or Cambridge, Massachusetts. Since 1983 he has been an Adjunct Professor teaching writing at MIT. He is a lifetime member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), and a past-president. In addition to being an award-winning writer, Haldeman is also a painter.

The Forever War begins with Private William Mandella, a physics student who is conscripted for an elite task force in the United Nations Exploratory Force that is being put together to fight a war with an alien species known as the Taurans. These aliens had discovered a human colony ship and attacked it and the people of Earth want revenge.

Mandella is sent first to Missouri and then to Charon, the last planet in our Sun’s solar system for basic training. Many of the young, genius soldiers are killed due to accidents in the hostile environments and the use of live ammo in training. Once they are certified for combat, they are sent into battle via wormholes called “collapsars” which allow UNEF ships to travel thousands of light-years in an instant for the passengers, but with relativistic consequences.

The UNEF’s forces first meeting with the Taurans takes place on a planet orbiting the star Epsilon Aurigae. It becomes a massacre, with the unarmed and unresisting Taurans being wiped out. The fighting continues with the Taurans gaining on them as the aliens deploy increasingly advanced weaponry against the earth soldiers. Mandella lives through his first two year tour of duty and is discharged back to Earth, along with his fellow soldier and lover Marygay Potter. The 21st century soldiers discover that while only two years have passed for them, several decades have passed on Earth. Mandella experiences culture shock as he attempts to re-enter a world where unemployment is high, rationing and violence is more commonplace, and homosexuality is encouraged by most governments as a hedge against overpopulation.

Mandella tries to find work as an instructor on Luna, but the military reassigns him to combat command, treating him more like a cog in a machine. He accepts the return to combat as being better than remaining on a planet where he doesn’t fit in and many of his fellow soldiers feel the same way. He survives the next four years of military service, almost more due to luck than any other reason. In time, he becomes the oldest surviving soldier in the war, gaining high rank due to seniority. He is separated from Marygay by UNEF’s plans and awaits to command soldiers who speak a language unrecognizable to him, who have a homogenized ethnicity and are exclusively homosexual because of the centuries of time he has passed via relativity. The men hate him because they must learn 21st century English to speak with him and the other senior staff and because he is heterosexual.

Returning to combat, Mandella and his soldiers battle to survive what is touted as the last conflict of the centuries long war. The time dilation continues back home. In the centuries that pass while Mandella fights, humankind develops cloning which results in a new collective species that calls itself Man. The new collective discovers that the Taurans are also a species of clones that communicate in a similar way that the new humans do. When Man gains the ability to communicate with the Taurans, it discovers that the Taurans were not originally responsible for the destruction of the colony vessels that led to the start of the war. The information renders the millennium-old conflict meaningless and the war is over. The soldiers are decommissioned, but there is no real place for them in the new order since they are not clones.

Man decides that a backup plan is needed in case the new cloned species of human proves to be a mistake. Several colonies of old-fashioned, heterosexual humans are established. Mandella travels to one of these, called “Middle Finger”. There he is reunited with his love, Marygay who had been using time dilation to age at a slower rate so that she might have a chance of being alive when Mandella arrives.

The Forever War remains as bright and relevant today as it did when it was written 35 years ago. At the time, it must have been thought of as a satirical send-up to Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, considering that it was about a futuristic military with spaceflight, futuristic weapons and written from the point of view of a soldier, yet retained an anti-war theme and even featured a romance. The explanation of the effects of relativistic time dilation on the lives of the soldiers that experienced it was a first, making this a brilliant piece of hard science fiction. It is a book that has stayed with me for many years since I first read it during college. If you are a reader or writer of science fiction, it is a novel that you need to experience. It is a true classic.

The Forever War Book CoverThe Forever War series:

The Forever War (1974) (Nebula Award winner, 1975; Hugo and Locus SF Awards winner, 1976)
Forever Peace (1997)
Forever Free (1999)
“A Separate War” (2006, short story)
“Forever Bound” (2010, short story)