Like most writers of short stories, I measure out my life in calls for submission. That means deadlines, which are an incentive to write, but no guarantee. Many are the stories that don’t get finished in time, or wander off in a direction that doesn’t fit the theme I was originally aiming for. I used to rationalize that an unfinished or somewhat unfocused piece was good to have around as inventory, almost ready when another, possibly better, market came along. This was occasionally true. Now, though, I finally have to admit that I’m falling behind, doing hardly any new writing. I have four stories coming out this year or early next year, but every one of them is a reprint. Nothing new.
So what should I be writing? In my last post, where the theme was Power, I already discussed the Superhero novella I’ve actually contracted to do, so I won’t bring that up now except to say that I’m working on the concept. There’s an anthology with a much closer deadline that I’ve been planning to write for, and may yet manage, but somehow the theme of The Girl Next Door just hasn’t grabbed me hard enough yet. We’ll see.
What I will be writing, in the next couple of weeks, is more in the nature of marketing, the kind that doesn’t really accomplish anything but may make one’s publisher think that one is trying. I’m wrangling a Blog Tour for my newest anthology, Me and My Boi, with just over half of the contributors posting on their own sites, several writing pieces to send me for posting on my site, and several not up to writing anything, for one reason or another, so I’ll be handling those for my site with bios of the writers and excerpts from their stories and anything else I can think of. Not really writing, I admit, but busy work that keeps the typing fingers limbered up. So many of these Tour things are going on these days that attracting readers to them is likely to be about as difficult as getting the anthology itself noticed in the boundless ocean of other books,
I’ll also be working on proposals and blurbs for anthology readings, three already confirmed for Womens’ Week in October in Provincetown, MA, and one probably in September at a bookstore in NYC where I’ve read many times before, including once this year already, but they always require a form filled out that includes not only the bios of the readers but complete information on all their backlists, just in case they want to stock those books for the occasion (but probably won’t.) My writers are usually a well-published lot, so putting these lists together can be time-consuming. I’ll just have to buckle down and cope.
Now can I talk about what I want to write? Not that I can promise that I will. There’s another anthology, with a deadline farther off, that really does grab me. It would be just my second time ever writing a gay male story, which is neither here nor there. The theme is speculative fiction incorporating the times and milieu and methods of Sherlock Holmes, something I know quite a bit about, and I’ve been reading even more for research. My title would be “On a Grecian Urn,” and naked male figures on a piece of ancient Greek pottery in a very private collection in Victorian London would have a great deal to do with the mysterious disappearance of a young poet. I might make him a protégée of a certain infamous playwright/poet/wit, but maybe not; probably someone else will be incorporating Oscar into a better story than I could write.
There are other stories I want to write, a few that I feel so strongly about that I don’t want to write them for anybody else’s anthology, even though I’m unlikely to have one of my own that they would fit into. With the decline in anthology sales, it’s pretty unlikely that I’ll have any more anthologies to edit at all, although there’s one more in the pipeline, so to speak, that I completed and turned in to the former publisher almost two years ago. (The anthology that’s coming out right now was turned in almost three years ago. The sale of the publisher to a small conglomerate resulted in understandable delays,)
When I’ve actually been writing new things in the last year or so, they’ve tended to be sequels or prequels to previous stories, or even extrapolations on episodes only briefly mentioned in previous stories. There are two sets of characters I’ve used in three stories, and two more couples have been in two pieces—so far. There are other characters nudging at me to be revisited. Does this mean I’ve run out of any claim to originality? Or that I’m a closeted would-be novelist who will never make the leap outward? Well, time will tell. But I don’t think that time, or tide, or the dwindling marketplace, are on my side.
Still, last year I was inspired by calls for submissions to write two brand new stories, and one of them even had brand new characters (who are now urging me to write more about them.) I’m not sure I can consider myself a true writer when I write so sporadically, but I’m still thinking about writing much of the time. It’s a good thing I don’t depend on writing income for living expenses, but without editing gigs I’m going to have to hustle more to have “discretionary” funds for traveling for readings and conventions, supporting causes (and politicians I favor) in a small way, and various other fripperies. An even more insistent incentive is my self-image as a writer. I’m not going to give that up as long as I still have words in my head.