Design a site like this with
Get started

The Journey to Publication

I have always enjoyed creative writing, starting pretty much as soon as I learned to read and write. I have also loved reading Science Fiction since I first discovered the genre, around the age of 8, so the thought of writing my own Science Fiction stories has been around a very long time: decades!

Putting that thought into action has taken a lot longer than I ever expected, but around three years ago I started writing down snippets of ideas which might form the basis of potential stories. One idea I put a lot of thought into was for a story based on the Earth and Mars, involving significant biological research elements. I did a lot of research around my ideas, as I wanted the scientific aspects of the story to be as accurate and/or plausible as possible.

Along the way, I also entered a Flash Fiction Challenge competition, writing a Science Fiction story with an assigned title within 48 hours. This experience was an immense help, as it showed me that I could actually write fiction, although whether anyone else might want to read it was another matter…

Finally, after talking through my original Mars story scenarios with my youngest son, I was inspired to write that story down in one very long late-night session, almost a year ago to the day. That story is now called The Martian Chickens.

I requested feedback on it from my children and a few close friends who also shared my interest in Science Fiction, and I received lots of valued feedback: comments, criticisms and questions, all welcomed and acted upon. My daughter is a student at the University of Cambridge studying Medicine, so she provided plenty of feedback concerning the academic rigour of the statements I was making! And coincidentally, she had a friend studying for a Ph. D. whose research involved breeding chicks – a critical element in my story. What a valuable source of feedback – how lucky was that?!!

What I found during the process of writing and revising The Martian Chickens was that I really enjoyed writing the story and that people (well, at least a few close friends) actually enjoyed reading it. That inspired me to write further stories, and receive more feedback.

Feedback is very important to me. I’m keen to get honest opinions on the negatives as well as the positives in my writing. I find you learn more from the negatives, provided you don’t have an ego problem.

I wrote my stories because I enjoyed the creative buzz that I got from the process, rather than with a view to publication. But after I had written my first four stories, I started to wonder whether they would be suitable for a wider audience and I decided to start submitting my stories for publication.

And of course, I immediately started receiving back rejection emails. Rejections are a fact of life when you are submitting stories, and it’s important to be able to deal with that. Gone are the days when an unknown author like myself might receive much in the way of guidance on reasons for rejection: the norm is a standard, automated email.

I deal with story rejections is two ways. Firstly, I take another look at the magazine or site to which I have submitted. Was my story right for their publication and their target audience? Clearly, it’s much better to target stories at an appropriate, relevant site than to adopt a scattergun approach and hope for the best. I’ve certainly been guilty of submitting the wrong sort of story to the wrong type of publication, but it’s all a learning experience.

Secondly, I take a long hard look at the story, imagining reading it through the eyes of a slush pile reviewer who has the thankless task of reviewing hundreds of short stories. What are they looking for, and why have they rejected my story? How can I improve the quality of my writing? What needs to be added (or left out) to enhance the story? Do parts need to be rewritten? Can I improve it at all, or should I abandon this story? I find that I rather enjoy this part of the process, because in many cases the story that emerges is better than the story I started with.

.. and eventually, one of my stories was accepted for publication! I still remember the day quite vividly. We were abroad on holiday when I checked my mail and discovered the email informing me that Proxima Junk had been accepted by Nature Futures. It is fair to say that I was rather shocked! Nature is a highly respected scientific journal, and I was immensely proud to have my very first accepted story published there.

The journey to publication doesn’t stop the moment you receive an acceptance email: there are contracts to sign and proofs to review. Nature Futures also offers authors the opportunity to write an accompanying piece describing the inspiration and background to the story. I was keen to take up this offer, so that meant further writing to quite a short deadline.

Finally, on 31st July 2019, my story Proxima Junk was published online in Nature along with my accompanying story behind the story piece. A pdf version of Proxima Junk is also available, mirroring the story as printed in the back of the 1st August 2019 edition of Nature.

I have to say that becoming a published author has given me quite a buzz, but I haven’t jacked in the day job to become a full-time writer. One published short story really doesn’t entitle you to think like that!


Published by markvsf

Father (of 3) and Husband (of 1) Lifelong Science Fiction Fan (mainly Hard, Technical SF) New Scientist Subscriber since the age of 15. Lifelong interest in all things Science and Technology Runner, distances up to Half Marathon (most recent 2019) and occasionally further. Cyclist (although my bike is much better than I am) Senior IT Manager for a Cable and Internet company in the UK Science Fiction Author (since 2019)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: