I've always been of the strong opinion that a successful writer does not develop in a vacuum. From my experience, the best writers, those who experience the greatest amount of success, are quite active within some brand of writing community, whether it's local or online, MFA program or independent workshops developed by like-minded writers. Any opportunity a writer can take advantage of to connect with other writers, learn more about the craft and industry and get valuable feedback can be a very fruitful step toward success and a potentially worthwhile investment.
Author Brandon Tietz is here to share his experience in such a writing community. While his experience is focused on what he learned through chuckpalahniuk.net, I encourage you to find a writing community that's right for you and your work.
It was May 2009 when I came to The Cult—specifically, the Chuck Palahniuk Writers’ Workshop, in which I had hoped to get my work in front of the author, and perhaps earn myself a little credibility in the process by way of an anthology contest that was being run. At that point, I had no published work other than a novel I took through a vanity press, which, if you’re familiar at all with the industry meant two things:
I had paid to see my work in print.
Because I had paid for my work to be printed, this was considered a huge faux pas.
It’s not that I wasn’t confident in my abilities as a writer, but when it came to the industry of publishing, I was lacking a lot of key information other than “you need to get an agent.” As most aspiring authors know, querying an agent with no credentials is rather futile, and that was much the case with me. I also had no MFA or formal declaration on paper saying that I could write. Essentially, the will was there—had been there for some years, actually, but the method on how to get into print remained foggy. The Cult changed all of that.
Not only was I able to correspond with other writers and authors, finding out the methods that worked regarding craft, marketing, and publishing, but I was also getting the critical eye that my work had long been missing. My missteps were identified and amended. The things I was doing right, I learned to do better. It was an opportune time in which both my writing and publishing IQ skyrocketed just by taking advantage of the resources workshop and community offered me, and it wasn’t without positive residuals.
After getting back-to-back nominations for my June and July stories, my August submission about conflict diamonds was selected as a finalist to go in front of Chuck Palahniuk. Two more would make finalist after that, and although I don’t know if any of these pieces will make the final cut for his anthology, it doesn’t seem to matter as much anymore.
My vanity press novel got a re-release through a traditional publisher. I learned how to get my work in print, and have been doing so in the form of lit mags and anthologies. And I got a literary agent who is currently pitching my next book to places like Viking, Random House, and Doubleday. This all happened within the last couple of years, and even though I don’t I think I’ve technically “made it” just yet, I can’t deny that I’m on the right path to do it. I’ve always had the ambition, but The Cult taught me how to capitalize on it.
LitReactor will continue to do that with other writers, and I’m quite honored to be a part of what’s sure to be a staple in the literary community.
TLC: A word about self-publishing: a self-published book is not a turn-off for me in the slightest. In fact one of my favorite novels, Strip Cuts, is a self-published literary novel that received a very positive review from Publishers Weekly and was favorably compared to Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio. If you decide to self-pub, you must approach it like a business and make sure every effort to print and promote your work is polished and professional. It's a great option for the right author.