I have this superstition that I shouldn’t talk about any short story I’m working on except in the most generic of ways unless I know what’s going to happen to it.
So, if I’ve sold a story and I know it’s going to be published, I’ll talk about it a little more concretely than I will if I’ve just written a story.
I had been blathering on about my Metallica time-travel story because I thought the premise was actually hilariously dumb and, if anything came of it, it would be that I posted it here in October. So, no harm, no foul. I knew what was going to happen to it, it was fine to talk about it.
But I actually think it might be pretty good. Oops. Maybe I should try to sell it first, before assuming it’s an October story.
It got me thinking–how do you decide which stories are good enough to shop? Obviously, everything you write is not going to be great. I probably spend too much of my life organizing things like a wrestling card, but it’s a useful system for me.
You have a roster of ideas. Down at the bottom of your card are ideas too new to be any good yet and old ideas you’re not ready to let go of. Sometimes interesting things can happen if you slam those new ideas and those old ideas together. Then you have your mid-card–ideas you know are pretty good, stories that are fairly solid. Maybe, with some work, they could become superstars, maybe they’re not. Hard to tell sometimes.
Occasionally, you just have a headliner right off the bat. Both stories I sold that are running this year, I knew when they were done that they were something–“The Four Gardens of Fate,” which Apex recently published (they were the first place I submitted it), and “Jesus Has Forgiven Me. Why Can’t You?”, which is going to be in F&SF in July (which I submitted to four places). And don’t get me wrong. It sucks to be rejected, but some stories you just know in your gut are getting rejected because you haven’t quite found the right editor.
But I look now and I see that I only submitted “It Came from the Sunny Side of the Mountain” to three places before I gave up and decided to use it as an October story. And why? This is what I’m getting at. I had a feeling “It Came from the Sunny Side of the Mountain” was a strong mid-carder. I wasn’t sure it was a headliner. But I knew “Jesus Has Forgiven Me. Why Can’t You?” was good. So, sticking with it was easier.
I’ve written two stories this year (not counting the stuff I’ve been half-assing for October). One, until I looked just now, I could not remember for the life of me what it was about. Ugh. Probably a mid-carder then. And then the other is this stupid Metallica story, which, maybe, I underestimated.