At the beginning of 2014, I committed myself to a production schedule for the first time. I made myself a 30-day, 60-day, and 360-day list of GOALS I felt I could control, and a short list of accomplishments I hoped to achieve by accomplishing those GOALS. The highlights of that schedule included writing two short stories a month, completing two novels and at least the first draft of a third novel. My desire in sticking to that sort of schedule would enable me to have a continuous stream of new short fiction out on submission out in the pro publication market. Although I have only recently come to enjoy writing short fiction, one of the big advantages of the short form is that I don’t get bored. It takes me two or three days to write a typical short story; the regular activities of dreaming up the topic, planning out the plot and characters, and then writing the story feels fresh and exciting; and when I’m done, I’ve got the fabulous new thing I’ve created out of nothing but the ideas in my head. On the other hand, the challenge in a short story is that you have limited real estate (word count) in which to tell the tale, which can limit the kinds of stories I choose to write.
Now that I’m at the year’s midpoint, I thought I’d review my status against my goals and if necessary, make some adjustments:
2014 GOAL: Complete 2 Novels √ Aurum and Legacy Soul complete
2014 GOAL: Write 2 short stories per month √ 10 shorts and 1 Novelette complete
2014 GOAL: Complete 1st draft of 3rd novel On track. Researching novel #3
2014 GOAL: Write 375K words 117K words written
Although the third novel is right on track, my word count has dropped a bit. I did not anticipate how tired I would be after completing Legacy Soul (while writing the 16K word novelette at the same time), and the thriller outline I’d planned to turn into my next novel wasn’t exciting enough for me to want to spend the next 4 months eating and sleeping and dreaming about. So I’m reading and researching the genre I do want to write in, and analyzing the work of some of a couple of my favorite authors to see what I can learn from their writing. I have no doubt that I’ll be able to complete the first draft of whatever I decide to write by the end of the year.
But both my word count and my short story production are at risk of falling behind. As the quality of my short stories has improved, so too has the time it takes to get rejections from editors.
I’m not complaining! I’ve started getting some wonderful / encouraging rejection letters, saying my stories have been in the running right up until the very last moment. As a result, instead of getting rejections in days or a matter of weeks, I’m waiting months and months for personal rejections from editors who tell me they wish they had room for this one and look forward to seeing it in print elsewhere. I’m learning that (in many cases, especially pro anthologies), the longer it takes to get your rejection, the better they liked my story.
The byproduct of that paradigm shift is that it’s taking much longer for my stories to get through the submission process. And the personal rejections often offer valuable insight that I can use to improve the story. This month, for example, I rewrote the ending for a story I wrote back in January, and re-sequenced the chapter order in another story. This redrafting effort takes time away from my new short story development. I do not believe I will be able to continue to write two new short stories every month; especially until I get the new novel outlined and started. At this rate, I’m hoping to write at least another six short stories by the end of the year (instead of the 12 I’d originally planned). Accordingly, I think I’ll be lucky to make 300K words this year, although my goal of 375K words is still reasonable and achievable).
So as I move into the second half of the year, I’m giving myself a little breathing room on the short story production front. I’ve already written more shorts in the last six months than I have in the previous five years, but even as I write this, I don’t like the idea of it. I’m determined to make that quota.
Such is the power of the schedule.