Self-induced short story workshop

About three years ago, I did not like writing short stories at all.  They are actually quite tricky to write if you are a wordy person like me…someone who tends to ramble on in response to a simple question like “how was your day?” So I started looking for anthologies with themes and strict word count limits to try to strengthen my short story ability.  After about twenty or so miserable short stories, I started to get the knack for them and now try to churn one or two out in the writer’s-block phases of work on my novel-in-progress, The Dark.

My problem is that I tend to make the plots too confusing.  More times than I can count, I’d come up with an idea that seemed great to me but didn’t really fit the current story I was writing.  This often resulted in writing 2-4 short stories at one time.  I was talking to a friend of mine recently, discussing these types of things, and he asked me how in the hell I kept up with the stories, the plots and the charcaters.

Post-It Notes.  That was my answer.  There are several of them on my desk as I type this.  There are two of them directly to my left with ideas and rough sketches for the story I am trying to get finished and submit to the Return to Luna anthology.  On my other side there are four Post-Its with idea for the zombie flash anthology Bits of the Dead.  This anthology has already rejected my crude flash peice “Lost Colony” and good for them; it really is sort of bad.  I was trying to tell a 5,000 word story in 500 (500 being their flash guidelines) and it came out really awkward.  But I am stubborn and will not quit until the deadline.

Then on the top shelf of my desk there is a list of all of the stories I have out there in submission limbo.  Usually I don’t need such lists, but in the course of the last 3 months, my submissions have piled up and I now have 13 stories that I am waiting to hear back on.  I won’t recite the entire list here, but just some of the stories that I am very anxious about:

“Mirrors Facing Mirrors” – sent to the Our Shadows Speak anthology
“King Pumpkin” – sent to the Harvest Hill anthology at Graveside Tales
“An Untold History of Cats” – sent to the Things Aren’t What They Seem anthology at From the Asylum
“After Passing” – sent to the Ghosts in the Machine anthology
“Alternative Medicines” – sent to Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens

Naturally, there are several titles on the list that have been scribbled through due to rejection.  The most recent of these was another rejection for my story “Golden Debris” (the third pass on this story which makes me wonder why I love it so much) and the previously mentioned “Lost Colony”.

So thank God for Post-Its.  I really do need to invest in another color other that green though; my desk has a black top and the thing is starting to look like a really tacky camouflage pattern.



  1. Good luck with all your submissions, Barry. I have stuff out with Harvest Hill, Thngs Aren’t What…,Ghosts, and Bust Down the Door… as well. Would be cool to share the TOC with you.

  2. Best of luck…I don’t think I’m going to make the Luna anthology. still haven’t started on it. Would like to share the Bits with ya, tho. 🙂

  3. Good luck! Short stories are tricky lil buggers at times. I tend to carry around a small black notebook, each page about big enough for two paragraphs, and jot ideas down as they develop over for or five pages. Then, when writing, never look at hte pages.

    In other words, the hardest part is making yourself shut up at times and keep it a short story. I’ve gotten back a rejection or two that read “Author writes like a novelist. Not a bad thing, but not appropriae for this length.”

    Oh, by the way, yer getting added to my Regular Reads list now that I’ve discovered your blog. Quickly, make it private!

  4. Short stories are more akin to poetry than novels, and the skill at the latter often fails when trying to keep it simple. I really suggest working on poetry if you want to tackle the short story better. Everything you need is there. Besides, almost all the greatest short story writers also write poetry. Coincidence?

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