Last year I set myself a goal of writing six non-L5R short stories — not counting the L5R ones because, those being work-for-hire, I can’t submit them to short story markets or collect them into ebooks or anything like that. For several years I’d been in a trough where I either wrote no short stories at all (2016) or none that weren’t solicited for anthologies (2017), so I was getting no fresh material into the pipeline, and I wanted to fix that.
Well, I didn’t quite make it last year; I only managed five. (Despite a heroic effort to finish one more on the flight home the day before New Year’s. It stalled out partway through, and still hasn’t come unstuck.) This year there was the temptation to try to make up for that, but I know that’s a foolish approach; I set my goal at six again.
But six is . . . a much fuzzier number than you might think.
In March I wrote a piece of flash fiction, my first in more than a decade. Does that count as one of the six? The honest answer to that is “if I don’t write more than five other things this year, yes, sort of; if I do, then no.” It absolutely counts as A Thing I Can Send Out, but it’s so brief — less than 500 words — that it’s hard to feel like I’ve accomplished much in writing it. Then in July I finished a novelette — which would definitely count, being longer than a short story, except that it’s part of a larger project and not something I’m going to be able to submit on its own to various markets. So while it’s A Thing I’ve Written, it doesn’t actually address the lack I was aiming for. And later that month I wrote another piece of flash fiction. Where did the count stand? And is any of this making up for last year’s shortfall?
The sensible answer is that last year is last year and the count for this year stands at whatever I’ve written, nature of the pieces included. Which as of completing another piece last night is five short stories, two flash stories, and the novelette. Does that hit the magic number of six? Yes and no. I don’t know. It’s complicated.
Really, though, that’s not the question. The question is, “can I write another short story before the end of the year?” And I think the answer to that is “yes.” I seem to have rediscovered the short fiction gear in my brain, after misplacing it for quite a while. I’ve got several ideas that might be about ready to go, and I have more than three months in which to prod one of them to the finish line.
And if I manage that well before the end of the year . . . then I might just write seven. Or eight. Who knows where the madness will end.