Over the years, I have written stacks upon stacks of short stories and a couple dusty novels outside of my work for other people. Other than a few released for last minute assignments or shared with the occasional, rare confidante, I have kept these hidden away. Margaret Atwood expressed my fears perfectly when she warned against publishing before thirty.
Ghost writing provided me an avenue to practice my work without having my name attached and build confidence in my voice. It taught me how to finish large projects from start to finish, the importance of a regular schedule, and allowed me the opportunity to build the endurance to follow through to the end. Even though they were not my story ideas, they gave me a solid foundation in my art.
I learned to detach from the manuscripts and push them onto the editors when it was time. I came to trust my editor’s feedback and take the lessons and criticisms with grace. Most important, I showed myself that there is no excuse for me to not do the same work for myself.
Why One Hundred Short Stories?
One hundred is a daunting number. At an average of 3,000 words per story, that’s a massive 300k words, or in other terms, a beautiful, three-part fantasy saga worth of work. So, why would I pick such a large number?
“The trick is to produce so much art, you just don’t care anymore–you want to give it away because you need space to create more art.” –Johnny Omnibus
Well, first off, I need the pressure of constant production to keep me from hanging onto pieces for too long. I will never feel they are good enough. I am not at my apex as a writer, and honestly, as a reader–I enjoy seeing my favorite author’s early blunders. I need to let other people judge and keep moving forward. There are too many stories brewing in my brain to keep re-writing the same pieces over and over again.
The second reason I am shooting for one hundred is because, from all of the research I have conducted, that is the point where you start making passive income with self-publishing shorts. Mind you, most of the people making a solid income are producing erotica, and that is not my niche. Still, the principle is the same–one hundred short stories is enough to have people see my name and go back and purchase some of my other works.
So, This is About the Money Then…?
No, not at all. This is about practice. I wish to practice the entire process and share that process with other writers–creating, editing, re-writing, proofreading, the creation of book covers, formatting, forming an ad campaign, building a platform, etc. I want to practice the process over and over and over again. I want to remove the tension and pressure from making ‘this one piece’ the best ever and detach entirely from results. I want to not worry about “is this my best piece” and worry more about, “Oh, yeah, that’s a good idea. Let’s get it to press. How fun.” I want to return to the seat of experimentation and exploration unabashed!
It’s also a fantastic, yet expensive, resume. There it is, a full anthology. Neatly packaged proof that I know what I am doing. I hope that might help with traditional publishing when it comes time to finish out my novels. Honestly, I might even produce some novels in the process of this project. I have three hashed out pretty well in my notebooks, just waiting for my time and attention. We’ll see. Keeping flexible is part of the game.
How Long Will This Take?
If I was not working full time and attending University, I could finish this project by August. That was my initial goal–write a short story every morning. However, I found I was burning out and realized I was slipping into the exact rhythm I loathed from ghost writing.
So, now, my new goal is to complete this project around the same time I graduate from University. If all goes to plan, I should have a well-drafted manuscript prepared along with my query letters, ready to launch into another career milestone. We’ll see though. Goals change as life changes me. I am excited to document this journey, and hopefully, it cures my stage fright.
What Exactly is the Plan Here?
- Continue writing short stories as they pop into my head. Focus on practicing new techniques as I learn about them. For example, right now, I am paying grave attention to my outlining process because I am what they call a “pantser.” A year ago, one of my issues was “head jumping.” Four years ago, it was sprinkling in commas arbitrarily and not understanding how they work with coordinating conjunctions.
- Document all these things I learn from my editors, education, reading, etc. In an ideal world, I will post daily on this journal. Ideally, one of these kinds of posts a week updating my people on my goals, my progress, my accomplishments, and what I’ve learned from the week. Then, following these up with short posts breaking down and re-teaching what I’ve learned. I also wish to post my essays, bad poetry, and to practice writing prompt free-writes. I probably won’t edit any of these. Why? Because I do that all day and like the stream of conscious feel. These two are ongoing tasks.
- After I finish a short story, post it to Scribophile for peer-review. I can write more on that later.
- Re-write and send off for developmental edits.
- Take notes on repeated mistakes to integrate into the creation of the next story. Re-write. Send off for line edits.
- Re-write. I haven’t decided if I’ll pay for proofreading or complete it myself. Most likely, I’ll knock it out on my own.
- Send it out for formatting while someone designs my e-book cover.
- Prepare my promotions for the launch date.
- Line up launch date with a day off to handle everything.
- Release for free for one week while continuing promotions. Up the price to $0.99 in week two. Up the price to $2.99 from there onwards. Run another promotion every ninety days as my budget allows.
How Am I Funding This?
Good question! Sacrifice, my friends, sacrifice…. I have a certain amount of money that pays my base line bills. 10% of my income goes to tithing because I am that person (take care of your community, people,) and then 10% of all income outside of that bills’ baseline I can spend how I want. The rest is fed back into my writing and taxes. Every year I make more money, and every year my 10% gets a little more comfortable. However, I am definitely paying for book covers instead of nights out, and I still have clothes in my closet from when I was fourteen.
When I started, I was working ten hours a day, six days a week in the service industry and taking on whatever projects I could for ridiculously low rates in my free time. I built up a reputation and was able to increase my rates. Now, seven years later, it’s my primary source of income. My bills are paid, and my budget is disciplined.
My point is, that even if you are slaving over a hot kitchen right now or scrubbing floors at midnight–if you have enough money for beer and fast food, you have enough money (and time) to make the dream work. I am kind of cutthroat about that perception and really only cut slack for the tired parent working and trying to catch a degree. If you’re in that latter category, though, you can still knock out fifteen minutes of journaling at some point in the day! I know it seems like a harsh judgement to say “anyone can do this, there is no excuse,” but I am pretty tired of hearing the “you’re so lucky” stacked with a million excuses on why people don’t chase their dreams while they’re simultaneously wasting every ounce of their opportunities on trash. It’s not luck, it’s work without immediate pay offs–maybe no pay offs. That’s the name of the game. Work for the sake of creation alone.