From a very early age, I got bitten by the idea that a story had to be sent somewhere for it to really exist. By the time I was sixteen, I already had a sizeable collection of rejection letters. In the years since then, it has grown considerably: the stories I talk about in this section are those that got accepted, but the success/failure ratio is one that would make a saner person cry. But the older I’ve got, the more entrenched the idea has become. I write a lot of things that end up rejected and abandoned, but I don’t write anything now without some idea of where I’m going to send it.
Every unsolicited submission I’ve sent out has been sent with the same overall goal. Every idea, every story, is intended to be the first stage in building a long and lasting relationship. I send my Brief Encounters to Doctor Who Magazine because I wanted to write a hundred of them. Heritage went to BBC Books because I had dreams of becoming their most prolific author. Telos and Obverse were both publishers I wanted to work with long term, and even In Uniform was sent out because I wanted to find regular work outside of Doctor Who.
In part, it’s an attempt on my part to bypass some of the less glamorous aspects of being a writer. There is no job security in writing. You spend half your time sending things out, building relationships, finding contacts and one by one they all drop away. Deep down inside, what I really want is to find one person who will publish or produce everything I ever want to write. That person doesn’t exist, won’t ever exist, but part of me always thinks “maybe this time …”
But then, as luck would have it, sending out things to new people isn’t just the hopeless expression of that unrealistic desire. It’s also the only way to combat it, and the correct way to try to build a strong writing career. These days more than ever you need as many strings to your bow as possible, and if you are going to build a career you’re going to have to have your work accepted by a lot of different places. Some writers do manage to find a publisher or a producer to sign them to an exclusive agreement, but believe me the odds are massively against it. Million dollar contracts are not handed out left, right and centre. The vast majority of writers see most of their work go into the bottom drawer and never come out again.