There is nothing like a firm deadline to move a writing project along. In my case it is a self-imposed one: to publish by this autumn. It has sparked the most creative, most productive period of writing in my life.
When I first set out to write stories in the 1990’s I completed two good ones for a total of less than 15,000 words. Numerous others fizzled, eventually ejected from my computer. Then, after a long hiatus, when I returned to this sort of writing a few years ago it was slow going, just five decent finished stories (26,000 words) and a few other incomplete ones with promise.
Upon deciding to embark on the project and with my deadline set, in less than eight months I wrote six new, decent stories (over 55,000 words) and completed another three that had previously hopelessly stalled.
I now have a total of seventeen stories, around 114,000 words ready to publish, pending final revisions. My computer file is full of numerous other stalled stories, some quite ambitious, others simple. My head is full of yet more ideas that have not come to fruition.
Once again, the deadline comes in handy. I can keep producing stories forever. At some point I have to stop and prepare what I have for publication. That time is now.
One of the advantages of a short story anthology is that Mim, my editor, has polished the stories as they were completed. Unlike a novel or memoir, we didn’t have to wait for the whole project to complete and engage in a professional edit in one big gulp. With the exception of one new story, the remainder of the list will need minor, final revisions.
We then have to decide whether to keep them all and which ones to reject, and the order in which they should appear. Then there is the all too important question of the title for the book. Short story anthologies usually carry the title of a prominent one within the collection. I am not sure which that will be, or whether we should come up with a clever overall title like Raymond Carver’s “Shortcuts.”
There is further grunge work to follow, writing an introduction, acknowledgements, and an explanatory essay about Turkish word usage and medical terminology. It is grunge because there is no creativity involved.
The process of re-reading, re-processing Mim’s new revisions, writing the grunge, submission for publication and proofing galleys will consume a tremendous amount of time in the upcoming months.
In the meanwhile, I am quite certain that I will continue to work on new stories because the creative part, difficult as it is, is the most fun.