Way back when Dean Wesley Smith started his 2011 Writing Challenge, I threw myself into writing a bunch of short stories, mostly to back up my Cuckoo Club novels.
I was reminded of this recently by a post over on The Daring Novelist, when Camille LaGuire blogged about What’s Next on her writing schedule as part of a ROW80 update. Once I’d started my reply I realised it would be unbecoming of me to take over her comments section with the details and decided it really ought to be a blog post of its own.
Blogging’s like that. So here’s my words on the subject of writing a bundle of short stories.
I began to build a list of possible short stories by filling a page with titles – hand-written, very small, one per line and I think I stopped at a hundred. I did it in my spare spare time – waiting for a takeaway, or in a cafe while waiting for a friend to arrive for coffee, or while my PC booted up. Any five minutes or so when I couldn’t dig out inspiration much beyond a handful of words.
The titles which appealed especially I transferred to a five-by-ten table and began to work out which theme the title suggested. This involved coloured pencils and subtitles and lots of footnotes. Lots of fun.
Those that REALLY appealed got written.
Out of that exercise I got the stories I’ve written as Vita Tugwell – including the novels – and about a dozen of the Tales from the Cuckoo Club Archives.
The latest of these, Carter’s Loss, will be published as an ebook across all the usual resources (Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Smashwords, Xinxii, etc.) when I’ve given it the once-over and added a few zingy bits. Or maybe a McGuffin.
I’ve got nearly eighty titles left on the list.
Some of those, I suspect, will never be anything more than a neat title, and others will veer off into a new series of novels or novellas (hint: two at least, very promising conjectures both). Some of them were simply titles that provided a link to the next title in the list as I pulled them out of my imagination. They were cheesy, but essential, and the goal was to come up with a hundred titles for short stories.
I read a post over on InkPunks titled Getting a Handle on Your Short Story Queue. The post talks about a technique called kanban, which I’d never heard of before – it’s a project management process for visualising progress of project tasks and phases.
I won’t go into it here, as the explanation over on InkPunks is so clear.
Kanban example from inkpunks.com
Anyhow, I transferred all my writing projects to a spreadsheet mock-up of the kanban process, with suitable phases and tasks according to my style of writing.
Now I can see how many of the hundred titles are lined up for actual word production, and how many stories will never get past the first assessment stage (i.e. I can’t see how or why I might write a story about That, whatever That might be).
Using the kanban process lets you see what’s next in the queue for writing – and move things around if you don’t feel ready to write a novel, right now, but might have the juice for a short horror story or a teeny paranormal romance novelette (no, I’m still waiting for the inspirational moonlight to strike me on that one too, hehehe).
It’s a good feeling of anticipation when you move a project into the Production phase.
And it’s a tremendous feeling of accomplishment when you move that project – that novel, short story, novella, novelette or non-fiction volume – into the phase marked “Complete”.
So you can start on the next.