Work in Progress: January 17, 2020

I hesitate to write this update as it may seem too self-absorbed, but if nothing else, this blog is a place for such.

Even with productive gains, a week can be more than challenging. This week I found a few workable short story ideas, made good progress on the plot summary of the next novel, and drafted a handful of poems. But there were days that threatened to drain that creativity.

I’ve tried to return my focus on short stories while I’m plotting the next novel, but reading around the marketplace leaves me frustrated. This sounds like complaining but I’ve tried to be objective in my study of the situation.

The reality of traditional short story publication

I write fantasy and speculative short stories. I’ve tried to write horror but never finished. My mind has never had a SciFi idea. The professional market for all speculative fiction is small; under a dozen. It’s always been that way. Split that again between markets that prefer SciFi or Speculative or Fantasy and I’m left with three or four who will consider the stories I write. Each market has a cadre of writers they publish regularly. The potential spaces for a new writer is small and the competition high.

The number of semi-pro and non-pro markets is larger. There are maybe twenty that publish stories similar to mine. But these markets do not publish as regularly as the pros. Some only once a year. The number of stories they need is small.

Another variable just as important as any of the above is editorial preference. This week, while reading the markets (pro and not) who publish stories aligned with what I write, it struck me how much of the editors’ selections were still so different from my tastes.

When I look at the stats of writers I know, who published one, two, or three stories in 2019 and had to submit over 100 times to make those sales, I wonder what my chances really are. If I have enough stories, I’ll submit a hundred times, or two-hundred, but I still wonder if my story tastes will ever match a selecting editor’s.

This isn’t just an emerging writer problem. I know authors who write short stories and have published several times, still make those hundred submissions to find one or two sales. They have a track record that should help but the challenge is real. Too many stories and too small a marketplace.

Why do I seek traditional short story publication?

A few reasons. I enjoy reading and writing short stories. I’d love to see more people reading them. Yes, I could (and I will eventually) publish them myself, but it’s difficult marketing short stories without having published in markets a reader knows.

So while I made progress this week, it was against a mood. With all that’s happening in the world this seems a small thing, and it is on the scale of the world. But on the scale of one human trying to share stories with the world, mood can be at least a disruptive storm front. And like a storm front, it will pass.