Thursday, June 28, 2012

Short Update: Short Fiction

Since my last update, I submitted ‘Dragon’s Tail’ to the theme anthology it was written for, and received what I must say was a considerately prompt and very polite rejection. Rejection is no fun, of course, and it was a little surprising because I was and am proud of that story and thought it was a damn good one. But it’s all part of the game. There’s no way to know whether other authors explored the theme in a way that fit the editors’ tastes or their goals for the anthology – or, and let’s be honest here, whether I simply wasn’t one of the twelve, or twenty, or however many, best stories they got.

The good news is, because of the aforementioned prompt rejection, ‘Dragon’s Tail’ is now free for submission to other markets.

And I’ve written another short story, in response to another call for submissions from a different themed anthology, and I’m working on a third.

I have a few overlapping goals, here. It’s challenging and fun to look at something like a call for submissions for an anthology dealing with a particular theme or subject, and use that as inspiration to create a story that I might otherwise never have written. It’s good to stretch my muscles by pushing myself to work to a hard deadline and remind myself that I can write well and quickly when I need to. And you know, a sale would be nice. That would be good. I wouldn’t mind if it didn’t pay much – in fact, at first I was considering courting smaller, lower-paying markets as a deliberate strategy, because I thought it might increase my chances for success.

In the wake of the rejection by the themed anthology, I’m re-evaluating that strategy a bit. It’s a long-established principle among writers of science-fiction and fantasy short fiction that in trying to sell your work, you should start with the highest-paying markets first – because you shouldn’t sell yourself short. Why sell a story to a smaller, lower-profile, lower-paying venue before you at least try the bigger ones? That seems sensible to me, particularly since trying to play the low-hanging fruit angle doesn’t seem to be effective. That’s based on an admittedly limited sample size of one story submitted to one anthology, but it also just resonates with me. I’m the guy who’s drawn to BHAGs, after all, not Small Fleshy Unimpressive Goals.

Of course, there are drawbacks with starting at the top. Everyone else is trying to crack those markets too, which means besides the issue of rather intense competition, that stories can get stuck in the turnaround of the submission process for quite a while. But that, too, is part of the game.

Over time, despite my avowed fear of writing short fiction, I’ve managed to get several short stories done. Almost all of them have been waiting around for me to revise them. There’s ‘Necro Feel’, which I wrote years ago, and needs a fair bit of work, but which I still really like. There’s ‘Dead Chairs’, which is rather more recent and needs some tweaking. And there are this year’s crop of short stories, ‘A Knight Erring’ which needs some judicious trimming and some extra oomph, the just-completed ‘Hard Rain’ which only needs to have extra verbiage cut back, and ‘Dragon’s Tail’, which is ready to shop around. Plus the nearly-ready ‘Final Issue’ which is intended as a response to a particular call for submissions.

Looking at that list, I note that I have no fewer than six stories that, with not too much work collectively, would be ready to be released into the wild.

It’s not going to be my first, or only focus this summer, but it’s also something that I’d be foolish not to do.

So, again and as always: Onward!


Patrick Heinicke said...

Do I see an anthology of your own on the horizon?

Unknown said...

Ha! Probably not on the horizon yet, but maybe in the future. My impression is that you want something like twelve or twenty stories for a single-author collection of short fiction, and I'd like to have enough stories that any such volume would be "the best of Stephen Geigen-Miller" not "absolutely everything by Stephen Geigen-Miller, including the stories he'd rather forget".

clairification said...

Dude, that's more stories than I have in my inventory--awesome!

And I find there's a maximum amount of anxiety I can feel about submissions at any given time--the more stories to spread it out across, the less anxiety I feel about any given piece. So I paradoxically feel pretty good right now with two agent queries and four stories on sub, where in winter I was going squirrelly with only one story out there.

Total non sequitur: the spell checker in this thing believes I am spelling "squirrelly" incorrectly. But then, it also believes I am spelling "sequitur" incorrectly. Hmm.