The reading has begun…

I have to read 235 short stories this month…

The next phase of homework for the anthology writing workshop is to read, or at least attempt to read, all of the stories submitted by the other students. Not everyone wrote stories for all assignments, but there are really 235 stories total. I’ve read 40 so far, and am glad I’m a fast reader!

Totally random photo of the snow we got this past week.
Totally random photo of the snow we got this past week.

In the workshop we’ll spend every day listening to the seven anthology editors discuss why they would/wouldn’t want to purchase each story for one of the anthology issues. So while we aren’t required to read the stories, knowing at least a little about each one will give context to the discussion. The editors are purchasing stories for issues of Fiction River; each day they’ll focus on stories for one issue.

I’m really excited about this class for several reasons. First, I just wrote six new stories. Hooray! I learned a few things from that experience that will help my writing in general. Now that I’m reading a lot of stories – and this is a lot! – I’m paying attention to stories where the author did a really good job with something, and in particular I’m trying to think about why what they did worked so well. Then when I finally get to class I’ll learn from listening to the editors’ discussion. Obviously there’s an element of personal preference here, and they may all pass on a story I loved because it doesn’t work for them, or vice versa. But I’ve found in the past that I’ve learned a lot about writing by hearing what does and doesn’t work for people, so I expect this will be the same.

As we read through the stories we’re all creating our own ‘buy’ lists so that we can attempt to look at this in the way that an editor would. This has actually been pretty interesting. We’ve been given a word count limit for each anthology, which means that we can’t buy every story, no matter how great they are. Another thing to keep in mind is that you generally don’t want to pack an anthology full of the same kind of stories because the reader will get bored. That’s given me a few things to think about because I’ve read a few stories that were fantastic, but were also similar enough that if you read one you might not be as interested in the next, even though it’s just as good. So you could either only purchase one of them, or buy them all and spread them out far enough in the anthology so that the reader would be unlikely to read them sequentially.

On top of all the reading, I’m now back to working on the now-named novel, Entangled by Midsummer. It feels a lot easier after having to write a bunch of brand new stories! My goal for the month is to make as much progress on it as possible. I really don’t know how much more time it will take, partly because I don’t have a good feel for how much time I’ll actually have until after this class. But I’m very, very happy to be working on it again.

Once the novel is done I’ll get back to work on the next book: a novelette or novella named Bewitchery. This was, of course, supposed to be a short story, but the first full draft is over 9,000 words (short stories usually stop around 7,500 words), and I tend to write sparse first drafts. My guess is this will end up being around 20k words long. We’ll see in a few months when I get back to it!

I just realized something awesome – the six stories I wrote for the anthology workshop stayed short stories! šŸ™‚ I did come up with an idea for another novel or novella, but this is the first time I’ve ever written six stories in a row without one of them turning into a novel. Yay!

2016-02-06 Dakota Ridge

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