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 The Diverse Writers & Artists of Speculative Fiction

My Path to Publication

By Jane Lo

I’ve always loved to write stories. Prior to 2020, I had written a few short stories and personal essays – and when I was in high school, had even written a long, meandering tale I liked to think of as a ‘novella’ – but it wasn’t until January 2020 that I really began to take my writing seriously. This was when I took my first novel writing course, and when I began writing every day.

In some ways, it was an unlikely time for this to happen. 2020 was the start of a global pandemic. Our children were very young – 2 and 4 – and attending an exceedingly enthusiastic and responsible nursery, who felt they needed to provide them with an unending stream of online lessons and activities. Learning materials had to be picked up every two weeks so that our children would be able to continue doing science experiments, art projects, and of course, the usual Chinese, English, and mathematics worksheets.

I was also teaching full-time, so during the day when I wasn’t with the kids, I was in our bedroom teaching Zoom lessons. There was no real work/home division anymore, at least not during the day. It was busy – but strangely, with no daily commute, no going out on the weekends and in the evenings, and no social obligations of any kind – both my husband and I eventually realized that there was some time to spare in the evenings. He watched movies. I did at first, too. But eventually, I started writing in earnest.

I began writing for an hour every night. I poured myself into the story; through my characters, I explored love, cultural differences, familial obligations, motherhood, and this city I call home, Hong Kong. My usual time was 11PM to midnight, and this worked for me because I no longer had to wake up early to catch a bus to work; I could go directly from the breakfast table to my first Zoom lesson in our bedroom. I remember going into the office one day, finally, when we were allowed to again, and proudly announcing to my coworker, I’ve got 20,000 words! It was more than I had ever written.

That year, I kept sending chapters to a trusted writing mentor and she kept giving me encouragement and feedback. She helped me tremendously on my writing journey. I learned two important things about my writing self that year: 1) regular feedback is essential to my writing process and 2) I need small, achievable goals (5,000 words at a time is much more manageable than 70,000 all at once!).

I was so excited about having finished such a big project that I began querying agents and publishers almost immediately. Waiting to hear back was hard, especially as I received more and more rejections, but I kept taking writing courses on different topics, from romance writing to crime and thriller writing. I started a new novel and wrote short stories and flash fiction to keep my writing sharp. In hindsight, I recognise that my manuscript wasn’t quite ready for querying — I got just one full request from an American publisher, which became a rejection.

Disheartened but not ready to give up, I worked with a developmental editor who helped me improve the story and expand it from 60,000 words — too short for a novel, and perhaps one of the reasons why I got so few requests in my first round of queries — to just under 70,000 words.

During this process I kept learning more about the publishing industry. I learned that while an agent is very helpful — and absolutely vital if the goal is to be published by a big publisher — even with an agent, the process of being on submission can take a very long time for some authors, sometimes several years, and that some manuscripts never get sold at all. This seemed unthinkable to me — to finally find an agent, only to never see the book in print.

Happily, I also learned that there are many small and mid-sized presses willing to consider unagented submissions. It’s true that small presses might not be able to provide authors with a large advance (or any at all), and might not have a lot of money to promote the book — but at the same time, they might be more willing to take a chance on an unpublished writer, or a story with a more niche focus, and might be more open to the author’s views on aspects of the book like the cover, or which blurb goes on the back of the book. A local publisher might also be able to get my book into bookstores right here in my city, which was a big author dream of mine. With this in mind, during this second round of querying, apart from agents based in the UK and the US, I intentionally approached more small publishers, some of which are based in my part of the world — Hong Kong, China, Asia.

This time, my manuscript caught the eye of a publisher, Earnshaw Books, which specializes in books with a connection to China. Now, just eight months later, I have published my first novel, All I Ever Wanted. It has been a rather unusual and unlikely path to publication, but I am thankful I made it in the end.


Bio: Jane Lo is a Chinese-Canadian writer and teacher who has lived and worked in Vancouver and Hong Kong. She now lives in Hong Kong with her husband, two children, and a leopard gecko. Her debut novel,  All I Ever Wanted, was published with Earnshaw Books in April 2023.

Strap in and enter worlds of wonder in Chosen Realities: Summer 2020. The Journal contains a dazzling array of short stories, scripts, interviews, and more! Stroll through fantastical universes, rocket through science fiction landscapes, and muse on poetry in this jam-packed introductory volume of the Journal of Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction. Entertainment and enlightenment await!

You may be looking for some Afrofuturistic art for your project. Click the links to the artist and contact them on Deviant Art to collaborate!

SF/F Markets

We love the weird and wonderful world of speculative fiction! If you write fantasy, science fiction, horror or even just stories that feature imaginative, unreal elements, here are some great places to submit your work. And because prose writers shouldn’t have all the fun, we’ve made sure to include some outlets for speculative-themed poetry.

What’s great about speculative fiction outlets: many pay semi-pro to pro rates and have generous word limits (lots of options for your long-form stories and novellas). What’s not so great: most don’t allow simultaneous submissions.

To be included on our list, magazines needed to have reasonable response times (generally under three months) and charge no submission fees. In ranking, we took into account pay scale, response time and the quality of the publication.

From the International Writers' Collective