Short story writing is incredibly satisfying and – relatively speaking – immediately gratifying. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what’s happened for me this year in my short story writing career, and I’m happy to report more than a few pieces were accepted and published, with several more on the way. (If you’d like to read any, pls check out my Published Stories page)
But when I say “short story writing career” I will qualify it somewhat. I am a short story writer, but I have a job too, unrelated to my writing, which pays the bills. My short stories have all been published for free, meaning I have not paid anything to the journal doing the reading, or the editorial time and guidance I have received from generous (usually volunteer) staff nor have they paid me for the content I contributed. Just so there is no misunderstanding, I’m not suggesting anything about the arrangements – I’m more than fine with how everything has turned out. I’m excited and proud to be able to say “I’ve been published” by a discerning group of editors.
I continue to submit my work to journals with the hopes new editors will discover my writings and they will be willing to publish my stories. It’s still extremely exciting to me each and every time a piece is accepted.
Since the end of the calendar year is drawing nearer, I’ve started to think about my goals for next year and I’m stuck a bit. I know some of you who read my blog regularly write short stories too, or write novels or books, I’m curious to get your thoughts.
First, I’m thinking I should start targetting specific journals and create a “hit list” of places where I’d like to have my work appear. I’ve done that to a certain degree this year by closely examining editorial guidelines and reading as much sample work as I could before submitting a piece to a journal. But that’s a bit backwards to the strategy I’m suggesting. If I come up with a “hit list” I’m thinking the story I write would need to be tailored to the editorial style of the journal I choose to target - before I ever write the piece. I don’t know if this is possible, but it’s a thought.
Second, I’m unsure if I should attempt to get published a second time by journals who have already published me? Sometimes when I look at a short story writer’s credits, I see for some people they are published some % of the time in a “pet journal” where they keep re-appearing. For some people, I’ve seen up to 20-30% of their pub credits appearing in the same place, or places. I don’t know if this is a good thing? On the one hand, it’s wonderful to have a great relationship with editors who like you and like your work; on the other hand, shouldn’t writers give others a chance to have their work appear in their favorite journal too?
Third, most of the work I’ve gotten published this year is micro-fiction (usually 500 words or less), flash fiction (1000 words or less), or slightly longer than flash-length (over 1000 words but for me personally,under 2000 words.) I’m considering the possibility of investing more time and energy into individual stories and writing longer stories. The concern with this strategy is probably obvious: longer stories are much harder to place. Also it’s rare for me to read stories that are more than 8-10 pages online, so I’m not sure how large the audience is for these long stories either. (Stephen King’s comments about the state of the short story still ring in my head…)
Fourth, I wonder about the possibility of writing a novel. There. I said it. The thought terrifies me, and I’ve successfully put it off up until now, but late at night when I ponder how to achieve my goal of expanding my reading audience, it does seem like something I should entertain, and possibly plan, and possibly execute.
What are your goals as a writer? If you’ve been published, online or elsewhere, how have your goals changed over time? Thanks in advance for sharing thoughts on the matter!