short stories and my brain

My father is the kind of guy who makes charts and graphs of everything that doesn’t run away fast enough. I am not that bad . . . but I, er, may have inherited some of the tendency.

Longtime readers of this journal know that I have lamented repeatedly over the years my failure to write more short stories. I’ve done four this year, and have ambitions for more, which on the one hand feels like a lot and on the other feels like very little at all: even if I make it up to six, that’s not very many, right? Obviously not that many compared to my friends who are Short Story Writers in the more active sense, but also not very many compared to my own efforts in ye olden days.

But I was curious. So I sat down and I graphed how many stories I’ve had published in each year, and how many I’ve written. And then I did some math.

My average short story production, since the year I figured out how to write short stories, has been slightly more than 5.

Okay, that number is skewed. I’ve been less productive lately, after all. On the other hand, I might as well say it’s skewed in the other direction: there were three years (2001, 2002, and 2004) where I wrote way more. Ten stories, nine stories, sixteen stories.

All stories are not created equal. Of those sixteen, six were flash. Two others barely cleared a thousand words. A couple of the actual short stories weren’t good enough to be published; one wasn’t even good enough to submit anywhere. Compare with 2011, where I only wrote three pieces of short fiction, but one was a novelette, one was a novella, and all three of them have been published.

I am not a sixteen-story-a-year writer. 2004 is the true outlier. Unit uantity may have declined since then, but quality has increased. I’d still like to get my rate up, of course; it would be nice if my average were six stories a year. But six would not be me slacking off. Six would be a good, solid rate of production.


Which is as good a time as any to say that I’m trying to finish either “A River Flowing Nowhere” or “Fate, Hope, Friendship, Foe,” or (the dark-horse candidate) “The Unquiet Grave.” So what does my brain hand me? Ideas for the untitled ghost-princes story, of course, and also the weird Snow White retelling.

Brains. I tell ya.

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0 Responses to “short stories and my brain”

  1. Marie Brennan

    I think Jay Lake skews my notion of what constitutes a reasonable rate of production. 😛 But yes, you were one of the other people I thought of when I referred to Short Story Writers. Knowing your rate helps shut up the part of my brain that thinks I ought to doing sixteen every year.

  2. yhlee

    I am actually in awe of your output–I think four stories is a good year for me. Two is more usual. I don’t even try to keep up with the Jay Lakes of the world.

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