by Chris F. Holm
One thing I've discovered in my writing life is I'm no good at predicting whether or not an opportunity is gonna prove worthwhile. But I've also learned I don't have to be. Over time, I've developed a few simple rules to guide me. They've helped me immensely; mayhap they'll do the same for you.
On Online Networking
The best networking advice I've ever read came courtesy of novelist Sandra Ruttan, who said, "The first rule of networking is STOP TRYING TO NETWORK!" Fact is, publishing is full of interesting folks who love the stuff you love. So stop trying so hard. Just make friends. Congratulate folks on their successes. Champion work you love. Believe me, you'll get it back in spades, and wind up with relationships you'll cherish, not just a glorified mailing list.
On Short Stories
Write. Submit. Repeat. Shorts are the best possible advertisement for your work. Market-wise, don't be afraid to aim too high; my first acceptance came from Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, a long shot that paid off. But don't discount the little guys, either; I got a Spinetingler Award and a Derringer nomination for stories published in online 'zines, and when a buddy asked if I'd contribute a story to a new magazine he was starting up called Needle, I had no idea that story would wind up in THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011. Oh, and agents read short stories. Just ask internationally acclaimed author Stuart Neville, whose agent contacted him out of the blue after reading a story of his in Thuglit.
On the Value of Free
Don't be afraid to give your work away. Use your best judgment, of course, and always aim for paying markets, but plenty of reputable short fiction markets don't pay. That one I wrote for Needle, I did for nothing. Funny thing is, the check for BEST AMERICAN was for more than I'd been paid for all my other shorts combined.
On Stepping Outside One's Comfort Zone
Most writers are uncomfortable in the limelight. It's an occupational hazard. But don't let that hold you back. If ever someone asks you to participate in something – be it an interview, a panel, or, say, a blog post on writing advice to be read by loads of thriller writers– and your only objection to saying yes is it's outside your comfort zone, SAY YES ANYWAYS. In my case, doing so put me on a panel at Bouchercon alongside pulp badass Christa Faust; a terrifying experience, sure, but one of the most thrilling and memorable moments of my life. And if I said one not-stupid thing, I might've even sold a book or two.
On Writing Advice
Writing advice (this writing advice included) is only as good as the work it does for you. There are a thousand ways to do this job, and none of them is the One True Path. So when it comes to advice, keep what works and toss what doesn't, regardless of the source.
Chris F. Holm was born in Syracuse, New York, the grandson of a cop who passed along his passion for crime fiction. He wrote his first story at the age of six. It got him sent to the principal’s office. Since then, his work has fared better, appearing in such publications as Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2011. He’s been an Anthony Award nominee, a Derringer Award finalist, and a Spinetingler Award winner. DEAD HARVEST is his first novel.
To learn more about Chris and DEAD HARVEST, please visit his website.