a better (or rather, worse) metric

Remember how I mentioned before that I wanted to improve my story production this year? Well, I haven’t really made progress on that; I haven’t written anything new (yet). But I have sent something new out, that’s been sitting around waiting to be revised for a year or more.

When I went to add it to my submissions log, I noticed something . . . poor-ish.

Yes, the point (as I said in my previous post) is to sell things, not to submit them. But while the last three pieces I finished and sent out sold to the first place I submitted them — yay! — that isn’t the whole story. All three of those were basically written to order, under conditions where I more or less knew they were sold before I started working on them. The last time I sent out a story that wasn’t solicited and pre-sold?

Was April of 2010.

And it isn’t because editors have been beating down my door with invitations. Three such situations in nearly two years is nice, but not exactly the sort of thing the leads to some authors of my acquaintance saying “I’m going to have to start turning editors down; I’m already overcommitted.” More like, the only times I’ve been able to prod myself into actual short story productivity is when I know the only thing standing between me and an almost-guaranteed sale is my own lack of effort.

This isn’t a self-esteem thing. Obviously I know I can sell stories, if I bother to write them. And it isn’t a lack of inspiration thing, either; one look at my (growing) list of unwritten story ideas would cure any notion of that. I’m not sure what kind of thing it is, really. It may be part and parcel of the fatigue issue I think I’ve mentioned in passing here; writing novels has been harder, too, for at least as long as I’ve been such a short-story slacker, and while I can’t prove that has anything to do with the way I faceplant for a nap almost every day (which is a more recent development), I’m hoping that fixing the latter will lead to miraculous improvements in the former.

Anyway. Mostly I want to pat myself on the back for finally sending out “Mad Maudlin,” after way too much time spent sitting on it. I have another story in similar circumstances (which probably would have been revised and sent out yonks ago, if I could just come up with a title for the damn thing), and I’m going to push myself to get some new things written. This, at least, is a start.

0 Responses to “a better (or rather, worse) metric”

  1. aliettedb

    I’ve been having the same problem, too…
    In my case, it’s definitely related to fatigue (I took up learning another language on top of a new job and a move, and I tried to invest myself more in other things beyond writing. I’m basically drained when I come home every night). Also, I wonder how much of that is a switching problem? I’ve noticed that switching back and forth from novels to short stories is… labored, to say the least. (I’m writing short fiction right now, and have to switch to a novel proposal in February, and the thought of that is fairly daunting).

    But yay for story submission, it’s always nice!

    • Marie Brennan

      Switching is definitely part of it; I’ve rarely been able to manage short story productivity while also head-down in a novel. But in between novels, I used to be able to knock out short projects without as much trouble.

  2. la_marquise_de_

    I’ve never got the hang of writing stories and sending them out on spec. I know it’s what I’m supposed to do. But somehow it doesn’t happen.

    • Marie Brennan

      I wouldn’t say you’re “supposed to” do it. Some people do, some people don’t; some people can’t write short stories at all, because that isn’t the kind of thing their brains produce. Mileage varies and all that.

  3. mrissa

    Sometimes it feels like if you write at different lengths, it can get to be a lot of juggling. Because there’s the writing of short things and the writing of long things and the revising of everything and the sending of short things yourself and the sending of long things either to agents or to your agent and the publicizing of short things and the publicizing of long things, and…yeah. It’s very easy for one or more balls to get dropped.

    Adding fatigue into the mix is no fun, and I’m sorry you’re having that issue.

    • Marie Brennan

      I should say that at least part of it is the way short stories have started requiring more heavy lifting from me. Lots of my shiniest ideas drag behind them quite a burden of research, which they didn’t use to do.

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