A few months ago I discussed doing a book of short stories after I put out The Halley Branch. Currently I am in a bit of a hiatus. I have some people beta-reading The Halley Branch and I’m not doing anything else. I decided that I should go through and pick out stories to include in the story book. Most of my stories are currently first draft, so I have a lot of work to do once I decided on which ones to include. It would be nice to start now so I can do at least two more drafts of each story, possibly three or four (I did four drafts for Seasons of Imagination).
When I did Seasons of Imagination I had a couple of people go through a couple of hundred stories and pick out their favorites. I read through all of them at least twice, trying to pretend they weren’t mine and grading them all. I sat down with the lists and one of the alpha-readers and decided on the final list. I passed it by both of these “alphas” to see what they thought and got two thumbs up. Easy.
Well, neither of my alphas are available now. There is nobody out there that I could possibly ask to go through a couple of hundred short stories (300 – 15,000 words, with an average of about 2,000). I mean, do you want to read through several hundred thousands words and pick your favorite? I didn’t think so. So I have been reading through them.
There are stories that I really wanted to include, yet after I reread them, I wasn’t so sure. I know they are all going to be rewritten, but… Yeah, maybe not as good as I remembered. Then there were stories that I said no-way, until I reread them and now I’m not sure. They were actually better than I remembered. Since a lot of the stories are things I posted on the blog, I’ve also been looking at comments. I will read a story and feel that it is OK and find 50 comments from people who totally loved it. Other stories that I am jumping up and down excited about, yet with zero comments. OK, part of it is length, but if I look at stories of the same length, say 1,500 words, I find the same thing, that sometimes the ones I like the most had the fewest comments while some that I thought were mediocre at best had tons of comments, all positive.
One of the issues is that I am so close to the source that I often can’t make good judgement calls. I’m only about half way through the first pass. Perhaps I will narrow it down a little more after another pass or two.
Have you ever gone through your short stories trying to pick out the best to publish? Do you have a favorite method for trying to figure out which ones to choose?