Stories, Stories, Stories

Fiction

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.

Not easy.

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?

16 thoughts on “Stories, Stories, Stories

  1. Marilyn Armstrong

    I can’t even read my own book without wanting to get a blue pencil and massively rewrite it. I have a crate … a moving size crate … in my basement full of TYPED short stories from all my pre-computer writing years. i refuse to even OPEN it and I don’t even know if there’s anything left inside that hasn’t been gnawed by mice.

    My dreams of authorship are drifting in the wind. I am not going to be writing anything serious anytime real soon.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Writing is the fun part, it’s all that stupid crap after it is written that is a pain, as your casket, I mean crate, full of stories illustrates. I only have stories going back to 2010, but I still remember some of the older ones and have posted them here in what I feel is pretty close to how they were written on paper all of those years ago.

      It has been interesting rereading these stories. I sign in as a different user so I can’t be tempted to make changes. OK, I can be tempted, but I can’t do. This forces me to just read and think about the story as a story. After I make my decision, I will then put it in word and use the “blue pencil” and pretty much change every word in each story. Three times.

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  2. Corina

    You know that often, when we post something no one reads it because of things out of our control. It isn’t because it wasn’t good. Or they will read and not comment. I think a lot of times our posts go up and there are other things going on so no one comes around to read or comment. It happens. It happens a lot to me. A lot.

    I do think it is a good idea to have some kind of a commonality in the stories you include. And a lot of your micro fiction pieces are great. Consider one micro fiction between the longer stories. That might work with the really short ones, like 100 to 200 words.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      I will try to see if I can find a commonality. One problem is that I know a couple of stories that will be in there, so trying to work around those might be harder. But then….

      I might put in a few micro-fiction stories. But I was also thinking that some day I might go through all of the micro-fiction stories I’ve done and do an anthology of stories that are all less than 500 words.

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  3. Sandra Conner

    I understand your dilemma. I’m working on two short-story anthologies at the moment, and I’ve had the same problem. I’ve even done two posts where I revisited several of the really short ones, posting them all together and asking if any readers had comments about what they liked most.But almost no one made a commitment concerning them.

    But I see the same kind of dichotomy where my novels are concerned as well. The first novel to be published over 6 years ago (not the first one I wrote, but the first to go on the market) was a book I felt sure would be one of my best sellers. But to date — 6 years after publication — it has sold only about a half dozen copies. On the other hand, the very first novel I ever wrote is the very best selling book on my list. That seems odd to me because I’m a much better writer now than I was then, but I think the fact that the first book is also the first in a whole series makes it a better seller — because so many people like series these days. However, the 3rd book in that series (which I think is the most important book I’ve ever written) is not a good seller at all.

    Then, on the other hand, the novel which I’d have to say is my favorite (If I HAD to choose a favorite) is also a very good seller, so that means the readers and I are on the same wave length with that one. So I honestly can’t figure out the reading public.

    But as for the short stories, I realized last year that I had written several that had endings that — although they finished the story itself — still had a sense of not being done — and any imaginative reader will automatically start thinking about what would probably happen next if the story continued. So I decided to use that as a theme and publish all those stories in one anthology and call it “Stories That Leave You Thinking — a Collection of ‘not-quite-finished’ Short Stories.” So maybe you can find a kind of theme running through a bunch of yours and go that direction for this next project.

    All this rambling probably didn’t help you any, but at least you know you’re not alone. :)

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      It is hard to know what readers will like. I have read that it is best to have a theme in a book of short stories, like your “not-quite-finished” stories. That is an angle I might explore after whittling it down a bit.

      I hope that a problem with a first book published is that it is a first book published. At least that is my hope, since my book The Fireborn not doing all that well ;)

      Long and rambling or not, thanks for the response :)

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      OK, so I exaggerated ;) Maybe 50 or 60 stories. I was counting all of those 100 word micro-fiction stories, and I am not going to bother including any of them this time. It is still a difficult job narrowing them down. I think in the end I will just have to go with my gut.

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        1. trentpmcd Post author

          This is almost exactly two years worth of stories. Since I write a new writephoto story for Sue’s prompt almost every week, often do long versions of my Friday Fictioneers stories (which I do every week), and I write other stories not based on prompts, I’m surprised it is only 50 or 60….. I hope that by the time I’m ready for another anthology that I’ll have the same issue with all of the new stories that I’m having now ;)

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