Going into 2020, I set myself a lower goal for short stories than before, because I suspected the election might cut into my creative energy. (Hah, what an innocent lamb I was.) But when I decided to participate in the Clarion West write-a-thon — you can still sponsor me, by the way! — I included among my goals “finish two short stories,” because I didn’t want to lose momentum on those entirely. I chose my phrasing on purpose: finish two short stories. I had one partially written, and another which in theory is done, but the first draft is so meh that it needs a white-page rewrite anyway.
Right now I’ve got three finished stories, none of which are those two. Also a semi-outline for a fourth, and a nascent concept for a fifth.
It feels like the valve labeled “Short Fiction” has somehow gotten jammed in the “open” position. It started in early June, when I went to add an idea to my file of short story concepts, and my eye happened to fall on one I’d completely forgotten about. A quick dash of research later, I had a story.
Then I turned my attention to an idea that’s been in my head for over a decade, ever since I ran the Changeling game that gave rise to the Onyx Court novels. The big stumbling block on it — as with many of my short story ideas these days, honestly — was the research; I needed to find a suitable book or two to read before I could write it. But I figured, hey, I might as well look for such a book, right? Well, I found something . . . and then I read it . . .
. . . and I was halfway through a draft when a different short story idea mugged me out of nowhere, in response to an anthology call. And let me be clear: that isn’t how this usually works. I’ve written to themes when actively solicited for an anthology, but my brain is not very good at coughing up themed ideas the rest of the time; it would rather work on the two dozen ideas already in existence. In this case, though, the theme touches on a different bit from that Changeling game — something I never brought up in the Onyx Court books, but which I’d always figured was true somewhere off in the background.
Roughly twenty-four hours after reading that anthology call, I had a draft. A couple of days after that, I went back and finished the other story I’d been working on.
Oh, and that “semi-outline” for a fourth story is entirely the product of me being in the shower and then suddenly BOOM, a three-word elevator pitch grew into scenes and a conflict and I could pretty much write this one as soon as I nail down the specifics.
So yeah. I now have “999 Swords,” “Oak Apple Night,” and “This Living Hand.” (Internet cookies to anybody who can identify what those titles refer to!) I have written my first new Onyx Court fiction since “To Rise No More” in 2013, and I’ve ordered a book that might help me nudge another one toward the finish line. Not to mention that I still have those two things that are what I expected to be working on during the write-a-thon, which I can probably finish this month.
I’m not sure what’s happened, but I like it.