(Even with optimized images, this is a VERY graphics-heavy post. If you have a slow internet connection or limited bandwidth like I do, click here for text only!)
In the dawning days of 2022, I’m delighted to report I don’t feel nearly as…wrung out as I did a year ago. Not to say this hasn’t been a sincerely challenging journey around the sun for me and almost everyone else on this chunk of rock.
Just saying I’m relieved 2021 didn’t feel like it took a decade or more, at least not to me.
I didn’t bother doing any kind of year-end wrap up last year either, but I can’t resist getting back to that habit now. Partly because I hit a couple of goals I wasn’t quite sure I could manage!
The whole thing started back in November of 2020, I came across a publishing challenge in a blog post. www.deanwesleysmith.com/a-challenge-for-everyone-for-2021 The idea of publishing a short story a week seemed a little intimidating back then, but I had a big advantage going in.
First, I had a backlog of short stories ready to go.
Second, nothing stirs up my healthy self-competition like a challenge combined with a streak, especially when they’re so easy to track!
Then in December, I was delighted to sign up for a series of six short fiction collection workshops. This involved writing five short stories in five weeks, then getting the collection published. All while learning about each genre and subgenres within them, and getting into cover design and other publishing tasks as well. www.deanwesleysmith.com/collection-classes-now-available
What a perfect way to feed my goal of publishing 52 short stories, right? I knew I’d end up with thirty new stories, and publish them standalone about a month or so after the collection came out.
Exactly the boost I needed for the publishing challenge, but also what a great chance to build up my story catalog and learn all kinds of great stuff.
What didn’t occur to me at first was how this would lead into a different kind of challenge. One that strikes me as a heck of a lot harder, even now.
As the year went on, I realized I also had a chance at writing 52 short stories. Not a story a week, like so many of my amazing writer friends have done. I wanted to write longer fiction in between, so I’d need to double (and sometimes triple) up on short fiction during the year.
What convinced me to go for it was one of those nerdy number games I simply cannot resist.
I turned 52 in 2021.
What fantastic timing to aim for not only publishing 52 short stories, but writing 52 as well!
So yes, my inner competitor was fired up, and the game was indeed on.
I ended up writing 53 short stories this year, and publishing 52. I even have one more formatted and lined up for the first week of January because it’s set on January 5th.
There’s the one to grow on.
What’s exciting about this is I’m much more of a natural novella and novel writer. I had to work really hard to learn how to write short stories.
So I’m pleased to report these were indeed all short! Only three topped 10,000 words, and none topped 11,000. Most were in the 5,000 to 8,000 word range, which I would have told you was entirely impossible for me only a few years ago.
Several are set within existing series of mine, and some created brand-new series of their own that I’ll be revisiting for sure. And of course a bunch are their own strange little objects.
The most important thing is I had a blast writing each and every one of them.
As for the publication side, I learned so much about cover design, sales copy, uploading to different vendors, and how to put collections together. My whole publishing process has improved immensely because of this challenge.
All that, and I have a bunch more intellectual property out in the world now, and even more waiting in the wings. All of them doorways into my writing and my worlds.
Those collections together with a novella gave me twelve major publications for the year as well, meaning a novel, novella, collection, or omnibus edition. That gets my total up to 42 since late 2016. Too bad I didn’t hit 52 on that this year, huh? 😉
Still, I don’t even know how many different kinds of wins stack up there!
But I didn’t ignore longer fiction while I was at it, because my total word count for the year is just over 538,511. A little less than in 2020 when I hit 568,159, but my goodness, with everything else going on, I’ll absolutely take it.
That remaining 220,071 words or so include a new novel and part of another, a novella, and things like sales copy, introductions for the collections, and blogs and such. Basically I count words that will be published somewhere, whether that’s in print or on my website.
So I’d say while 2021 was definitely the Year of 52 Short Stories for me (plus one to grow on), I didn’t entirely neglect my other writing while I was at it.
When it comes to goals for 2022, I’ll admit I’m really looking forward to focusing more on longer fiction. I started the third novel in my epic fantasy Misfortune and Magic series once I finished the last short story for the year, and it felt pretty dang good to keep writing with no worries at all when the word count broke 20,000.
Once that one’s finished, it will be time to send all three of those out into the world to join the short stories already published.
I have a couple of other finished novels on standby, and a new novella in my Voices Through Time series all finished and ready to go.
I won’t be entirely turning away from short stories, though. We’re signed up for the next series of six collections, and I can’t wait to dig into those. www.deanwesleysmith.com/all-collection-classes-now-available And I’ll continue to aim for story calls, workshops, and my regular contributions to Mystery, Crime, and Mayhem Magazine.
So while I don’t plan to hit 52 short stories written or published in 2022, I expect to end up with a respectable number.
When it comes to writing, I don’t want to do only short stories or only novels or novellas.
I don’t want to write in only one genre or even a couple.
And I don’t ever plan to stop learning.
In fact, I’ve already written and submitted a short story in 2022, and the next collection-workshop streak of five stories in five weeks starts next week. So I clearly can’t stay away from the short stuff.
And I wouldn’t want to with the amazingly fun themes coming up, and with all the excellent practice and joy I get from writing them. Stay tuned for the new collections coming out this year!
The truth is novels, novellas, short stories, collections, anthologies, and even omnibus editions all keep me interested, moving forward, and having a fantastic time with writing.
I can’t wait to see what all the words of the new year will bring!