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A friend of mine was working the door at a convention once when a small man with crazy white hair cut the line and approached him. He was in a hurry, said the man, he had a panel in five minutes. Could he please just get in? My friend, the loyal convention volunteer, insisted that the man get to the back of the line. A fuss ensued, but my friend prevailed. 10 minutes later, when the white-haired man was once again before him, my friend asked: name? The response: Asimov. My friend huddled into his chair and asked: first name? The response: Doctor Isaac.

If you want to get rich and famous only to be snubbed at conventions, here are a few ways you can do it.

More than any other genre, the Science-Fiction/Fantasy market is open to new writers. New writers breathe the life into cyberpunk, open new fantastic worlds. The first thing you need to do to break into this market is know your stuff.

There are a few ways to do this, but the best way is to read, read, read. Be a fan of the genre, and you'll know what's missing, you'll know where your world, your characters and your situation fits in. If you still don't feel confident in the genre, go to the library and pick up a writer's guide. Any guide. Writing Sci-Fi and Fantasy requires the same skills Hemingway used. The same skills Shakespeare used. Words and grammar are your tools: you should know them well and keep them sharp. Pick up EB White and Strunk's Guide to Style. It's the best little book you'll ever read.

Ok, so you have your story written. The next step is editing - not submission. If you submit low-quality work to an editor, that editor will remember you. The trick to editing is to get an objective viewpoint. No matter how good you think your story is, get it read by someone else - preferably someone who's a fan of the genre. Offline, you could join a writer's group, or start one of your own. A group of writer's here will critique your work in detail in exchange for the same. There are many professionals in the group, and the contacts you make will be invaluable. Listen to the critiques, compile comments that you get more than once, and do a few re-writes. Full re-writes. If you think it's a waste of time, trying writing a single concept sentence over ten times. You'll agree that the last one gets your point across much better than the first.

Ok, so you have a polished copy of your story. Now you're ready to submit. You have three options here. Online markets, offline markets and contests. Online, look for sites that have extensive lists of valuable markets. Offline, you should buy Novel and Short Story Writer's Market 2000 or Writer's Market 2000. Both list magazines, book publishers and contests with contact information and base guidelines. These books are an essential tool. Next, consider entering contests. Most offer publication as well as prizes. As a new writer, your credit list is your greatest commodity. Two excellent contests are L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future and Salivan's Short Story Contest.

Finally, remember a few things when submitting. If it's a print market, always include a Self-Addressed, Stamped Envelope (SASE) with an International Reply Coupon (IRC) in lieu of a stamp for markets outside your country. Even if the market hasn't specified this, sending one will mark you as a professional. Send typewritten, double spaced manuscripts with numbered pages. Send a cover letter with a very brief note about the story and your publishing history - be honest! Find out what the response time is and keep track of your submissions. Editors who are late in responding won't resent you for asking about your story - they'll respect you. If the market doesn't give a response time, specify one yourself. You've worked too hard on your story for it to sit forgotten on someone's slush pile for a decade or two.

That's about it. You're now fully equipped to get writing. What are you waiting for?