What do these three pictures have in common?
Let me give you a hint: the first one is a shot of Ray Bradbury, who issued the challenge, “Write a short story a week.”
Does that help?
When we were on vacation in Jefferson, Texas, we took a day to roam around the town. I found Mitchel Whitington’s book in the Jefferson General Store, and while I flipped through it, I found tons of story potential. I bought it and dove in as soon as I could.
The first event Mitchel recorded occurred in the historic Excelsior House hotel.
This wasn’t a story of a ghost sighting as much as it was of a ghost scent. In the hallway outside his room, Mitchel walked through a scent cloud–some flowery perfume or something–and found it overwhelming. Someone had really poured it on.
But when he returned, the scent that should’ve dissipated remained.
He checked again later, and it had moved.
He and his wife tracked the scent throughout the hallways of the virtually empty hotel, finding it here, then there–and no one had an explanation. He asked the hotel docent about it, but the haunting scent was news to her. He never did find out the story behind it.
So I wrote one.
Using his story and the visual prompt of the woman in a masquerade mask, I wrote a literary historical of envy, love, and loss, and I did so in less than a week.
Coming up with short stories is filling my desire to write literary pieces. Rumor has it that literary doesn’t sell well, and those of us who love to explore the depths of that particular genre aren’t likely to get rich on it.
So, what am I going to do with all these little gems I’m coming up with? I have several options–some of which I need to explore better.
- Create an anthology. This one is the trickiest. Yes, I can create and sell my own, but the best bet is to have several authors involved to widen the audience. Now, all I have to do is find other authors willing to participate in anthology, willing to split the meager income, and willing to sacrifice time to help market it. Oh, and I’ll need someone who has a clue how to price and distribute it and get hard copies of it, because I simply do not know how.
- Participate in a publisher’s call for short stories. Of course, the hard part about this is finding out about these calls. I’ve had three different publishers, and every now and then I have the sense to look at their sites to see what’s cooking. Usually after the anthology I would’ve loved to participate in has gone to print.
- Submit to a literary magazine. I like this idea and intend to follow up on it. The “Top 50 Literary Magazine” and “NewPages Guide to Literary Magazines” lists are invaluable to help find a publication match for my work. Among the things to look for when going this route are submission dates, genre/theme requirements, pay/publication compensation, length of term before you get your rights back. If you’re really interested in doing this, spend the funds necessary to familiarize yourself with the magazine and see what types of articles they publish.
- Participate in short story contests. I’ve discovered recently that this can be quite lucrative. Christopher Fieldon has a list of links to 2015 short story competitions, and C. Hope Clark has an excellent list in her Funds for Authors blog and newsletter. People get put off by the fact that many of these contests have entry fees, but if it’s a contest with a monetary award–or even if the only award is publication–the fee makes sense. Personally, I believe the entry fee is worth it because to win one of these awards not only provides bragging rights, it provides pub creds. Yes, the trick is to actually win the contest, and that can be quite a risk of funds. But I can promise you this: 100% of all who refuse to pay a fee will never win.
Actually, now that I look at it, I think I’ve put these in reverse order. Maybe I should put my stories in contests first, then–if they don’t get published as a result of winning the contest–I should try to get them in a magazine. Even if they do get published in the magazine, I can collect them for when the rights are released and put them in an anthology.
Lots of income potential with short stories, but the #1 reason I write them is because I doubt I’ll ever publish a novel length literary work, regardless of how much I love the style. I don’t know that I can actually write a story a week, but it’s on my to-do list now and I’m excited about the goal.