The bad news is that after 5 books (plus a novella and a bunch of short stories) and 7 years of trying, I’m still not published. The good news is everything I write is better than the last thing.
Back when I didn’t know how to write, all I could do was:
1) Create an interesting person in an interesting scenario (charaterization and worldbuilding)
Then I listened to the Odyssey Writing podcast and the Writing Excuses podcast and got some feedback and figured out how to:
2) Write so that someone can understand what’s going on in a given scene (mechanics)
That got my agent’s attention, and she taught me how to…
3) Make plot and character arcs, where tension rises to a climax (plotting)
But I still wasn’t actually selling anything. That’s where the Martian story is*, and it’s where Petrolea was before someone told me to
4) Keep it simple, stupid! The reader should know the character’s motivations and plans, so they feel rewarded and punished along with the character (emotional payoff).
For too long I’ve been patting myself on the back thinking “I’m such a clever-clogs to have made this story is so complicated!” When actually I just made it flat. At least at my current skill-level, I need to streamline things and be two notches more explicit than I think I need.
When Tex heard that, she compared my writing career to metroids...which is…good?
*update: the Martian Story became “The Lords of the World” and I DID get it published! You can buy it here!