I did it today. And I did it the Dean Wesley Smith way. I just submitted my first short story to a paying market. (The magazine I usually submit to is planning to pay in the future, but I decided not to wait.)
I found The Midnight Diner zine online. It’s about 4 years old and just started paying. I didn’t have a specific story idea when I found it, but I read over their submission guidelines and accepted categories. Ideas percolated. I latched onto one idea (another idea will be written later) and planned it out just a little bit. Just the major story arc. No character profiles. No scene-by-scene outline. Just two character names (Simon and Joshua), the starting location (Joshua’s Pawn Shop), why the characters had run into one another, and the final outcome. Much less than what I usually do.
I started typing and just let the story come out (though I didn’t write it in order). Then I skipped my normal critique group and asked my wife to be “first reader.” She read it, pointed out a few continuity errors that I hadn’t spotted and a place where the main character acted out of character. I fixed it, she liked the changes, and I sent it in this morning.
And I have other ideas for related stories. Enough to make a short story collection or two even. One character will be recurring, so I’ll pull his description into a character file for easy reference later.
It felt right doing it this way. If this zine doesn’t want the story, I’ll look for one that does or maybe just write the other stories for a collection. That means I need to learn how to do covers, but I knew that need already.