Sunday, July 21, 2013

More Thoughts On Short Stories, the Realities of Writing Them, Magazines and Anthologies

Yes, I know. Blogging three days in a row. That's one of the benefits of summer: more time to blog. Anyway...a threshold moment, yesterday, sorta, when it comes to my thoughts on writing short fiction.

First, a splash of reality: I had these lofty goals of writing one short story a week this summer. Seeing as how I've transitioned over to typing all my first drafts, I figured now would be a good time to try it. Seemed like a good idea.

REALITY: Finishing an epic, 100,000 word weird western while spending the summer with my daughter and occasionally doing some work around the house (just enough to retain my MAN CARD and keep the place from looking ramshackle) doesn't leave a whole lot of time left over. 

I mean, don't get me wrong. I was able to finish off a novella and get it to a publisher, I'm nearing the end of the novel, I dashed off a short nonfiction story the other day, and I've got at least two more short stories to write. But the idea of writing one short story a week was a little ambitious, to say the least. Which reaffirms another reality - for me, anyway - that I've suspected for a very long time...

REALITY: If I really want to crack into the short story market, especially the upper level, given my limited time to write every day, I need to do nothing but write short stories for a year, or least six months. See, when it comes down to it: I write EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. During the school year, often during lunch. Sometimes before bed at night. But really, I have the one time slot in the morning, and that's it. I simply don't have it in my schedule right now to consistently concentrate on more than one thing at a time. Which brings up ANOTHER....

REALITY: My musing the other day about there not being enough horror short fiction markets is a lot of rot. I think I've hit on something in that Amazon can be a great place to regularly release short stories into the wilds, especially if you HAVE a large readership and they're eager for your next release, but to be honest, I think if I started writing and releasing short stories on my own, they'd receive a collective yawn and not much else. Because who am I? No one, really. So, the...

REALITY is if I really want to make it in the short fiction market, I need to finish off Billy, get it to beta readers, get it to the publisher I'm pimping it to, and - depending on whether or not it sells - then buckle down and focus on short stories. Actually make a LIST of markets (which, GASP, I've never actually done), gird my loins, start writing and submitting, take my lumps, and send my short stories around. Of course, if I DO sell the Billy trilogy, the...

REALITY is my life will probably be tied up in that for a few years. It's an epic weird-western-mythic trilogy that will require a lot of time and research, and because I'm committed to selling this to midlist or higher, there will be a contract and due date. But I'm ready for that, honestly. I write like gangbusters when I know something is expected from me.  

And, yesterday as I was tinkering with an older story because I'd seen a submissions call for this type of story, I was stressing a little about the fact the deadline was only two weeks away, when I realized: this collection, though paying a decent rate, probably won't be read by many folks. 

So, ergo, I'm killing myself and stressing over a story that I'd only get paid a little for in a collection that not many people would end up reading, which I realized was stupid, especially when I HAVE started a relationship with decently paying magazines AND ezines that would at least offer a slightly HIGHER readership. Does that mean I'm no longer going to submit stories to anthologies?

Not necessarily. Especially if they pay REALLY well, are of higher visibility, or I've been invited to submit. But it's time to stop cold-submitting to semi-pro pay anthologies that probably won't reach much of an audience. I'm proud of my earlier fiction, and I really like the stories in Things Slip Through, coming in November, and I think they're great stories. But also those stories were published in small press, semi-pro collections with limited exposure. It was a great way to start out, and I'm hoping that the collection will reach a much wider audience....but the...

REALITY is this: the past year, I actually made some decent money writing, and that's made me realize that I AM a good writer, and my work is WORTH the higher pay. Does that mean I'll sell more short stories right away? That people will recognize my greatness and start throwing money at me to write short stories for them? Heavens, no. But going back to a certain pay scale now is just not what I want to do, and I've gone past a certain point, now, that just won't let me follow that route anymore.

So, what does this all mean?

Again...who knows? In fact, all I know is:

1. I will be finishing Billy in the next few weeks, sending it off to the beta readers
2. While they beta read, I'll be polishing the trilogy synopsis and proposal
3. When the beta readers are done, I'll implement their suggestions and then send it off to
     the publisher
4. And then I have two short story solicitations I need to make good on....

And then who knows? Bottom line is: I think I was wrong in my assumptions on the short story market, and depending on the fate of Billy, if I really want to sell short stories, I need to study the market, just buckle down and start writing. And, as always, that last part is the only thing I have any control over, so....