I am using the period where I’m letting Andrews Ranch rest before the rewrite to take care of some writing organizational work. No, not the bookkeeping and organizational paperwork. Rather, I’m fiddling around with outline notes, organizing research, making research plans, and reviewing short stories.
I don’t know how many other writers review what they have currently in circulation on a periodic basis. It’s something I like to do every couple of years, when I have most of my stories in hand and I’m not working on a bigger project.
Like now. At this point in time, I have eleven short stories that are making the rounds, aged anywhere from eight years to one year old. Ten of them have come back since I last sat down and sent out stories, about three months ago. These stories were out this last go-round anywhere from two days to a year, so it was a matter of timing rather than any big flurry of submission and rejection. A perfect time to review stories.
Age of the story isn’t particularly relevant to whether I circulate the piece or not; I’ve sold some work that I wrote a few years back and I think it’s an issue of either anticipating a market or else the type of story I wrote has come back in favor. Most of these stories are good in and of themselves and just haven’t found their home market yet. If they aren’t very good, they get trunked during these review periods. Some stories get put aside to be expanded into larger works. Now that I’m self-publishing some work, taking the time to expand some stories into novelette or novella form is a viable alternative. Generally, I let my mental notes about rejection feedback guide whether I do that rewrite or not. I’ve only done it with a couple of stories. Most of the time, I shorten a story. Sometimes I cut a secondary plot line. Rarely do I need to do huge edits–mostly, it’s just looking at the story and refreshing it for the current marketplace.
I also use this process time to clean up the circulating MS and do quick and dirty continuing copyedits (even when other eyes have gone over a MS I can still find a blooper or two!). But there are other, closer copyedits to do. For example, an older MS might have gone through a couple of word processor iterations and have some right margin issues. I still have some MSs with two spaces between sentences instead of one. I’m cleaning out tabs in favor of auto-indents. Occasionally there’s a space between the period and the hard return. All nit-picky little stuff, but they’re all things that can hang up the readability of a MS across different platforms.
Also, because I tend to use short stories as a means of exploring other secondary worlds, this review gives me a fresh chance to look at the world that a particular story is set in. Do I want to do other stories in that universe? A novel? If I do have ongoing worldbuilding in that universe, what insight does this particular story provide for character motivation? A lot of the work which has gone into writing the Will and Diana relationship for Andrews Ranch has illuminated the factors that come into play later on in the Netwalk Sequence with their granddaughter Bess. Understandable because I’m explicitly writing a generational saga in that universe. But they are revelations that might not have come to me if I hadn’t written Andrews Ranch.
I’m also laying out the research plans for the rest of this year. I have some big non-Netwalk Sequence projects that I want to get going, including a Weird West novella/novel (Bearing Witness) and a contemporary alternate world fantasy (Becoming Solo) centered around my experiences in 4-H as member, parent, and leader (think of 4-H competition as magical competition. Whole new perspective on Style Revue, Showmanship, and cooking contests). I want to write five new short stories to add to the circulation list, with a goal of getting the circulation list back up to twenty stories. I have two nonfiction self-published books planned. I have an urban fantasy novel that needs to have significant worldbuilding done. I’ve taken a run at it in four different stories and it’s still not quite right.
I also want to start using Scrivener for features other than layout and Compile for ebook publishing. It’s a matter of taking the time to learn the features and play with them, but that means being able to take an hour or so out of multiple days to do that, rather than begrudge the learning curve time because learning the skill takes away from valuable writing time. I need to start thinking about a post-day job writing schedule, where I have a regular pattern set up for household, horse, writing, and research time.
So there’s a number of things to do in this time that I’m letting Andrews Ranch simmer (including thinking about a new title, how to market the dang novella, and just what the cover is going to be). But this down time isn’t just me getting ready to collapse at the end of the school year only to recharge for yet another year; it’s a time for me to prepare for a new way of doing things.
Quite the challenge.