Sho’ Stories

Short Stories in HereSo, I write a lot of short stories. I enjoy writing them, and have a rule that I write a complete story every month. This doesn’t mean every story is genius, or even good: I’ve got plenty of stinkers. Some ideas were never that good to begin with (when pressuring yourself to write a story a month you sometimes have to go with whatever moldy inspiration you have), some good ideas aren’t handled well, and sometimes I have a good idea and a good beginning and just run out of time. On the 31st of the month (or the 30th, or 28th, or 29th) sometimes you just have to sculpt that Plane Crash Ending, or that Sub-O’Henry WTF ending, and go with it.

This is useful for me for three reasons: One, it keeps me on my toes, forcing me to work quickly and get ideas organized into a story fast. Sure, sometimes the story has a terrible ending, or a weak development, but it’s useful to be able to sketch out a recognizable concept in 3-4 weeks. Two, it serves as a meta-notebook of ideas. Instead of opening some small moleskin and finding something scrawled in there like MAGIC BABY MARBLES and trying to figure out what the fuck I thought would make a great story idea, I actually have the stories. At any time I can go back and revise, enlarge, or steal from them. Finally, sometimes by some miracle I actually write a story in 3-4 weeks that I think is good enough to polish and submit.

This year I managed 13 stories, actually, writing two in August. One or two have potential and might end up plaguing editors around the globe this year. The rest are kind of meh, but then you never know: Sometimes I go through the meh pile and find something that I can’t believe I didn’t think was great at first.

I submit my stories pretty freely; I write the damn things, I like to see them published, and I like to get paid for them when I do. Why not? This whiskey ain’t buying itself. As I’ve mentioned before I used to be a damn machine when it came to submitting stories: In 2002 I submitted 107 stories. One-hundred and seven. Jebus. How is that even possible? Of course, I sold 4 stories that year, so there might be a lesson there.

In 2011 I submitted 35 stories. Not 35 different stories, just 35 submissions. A slight improvement over last year’s 31. but I didn’t sell any of them. I got some interesting rejections, but no bites. This is the first year without a story sale since 1998, and officially made 2011 one of the worst Years of Jeff in recorded history. Sigh.

Oh well. For 2012 I aim to add 1-3 new stories to the submission pile, and try to hit 50 subs this year. And of course, 12 more new ones in the ole’ notebook, even if they all end with David Lynch Mindscrews.*

*I enjoy taking mild writing techniques and giving them names that could also be sexual acts a’la a Dirty Sanchez. Don’t judge me.


  1. Elisabeth Black

    I’m trying to do a short story a month this year – I’ve tried to every year, I think, since I read you did it. Which probably makes… uh… two.

  2. Sean

    You stole “Magic Baby Marbles” from me and you know it. There will be no limit to how I will make you pay. Also, looking forward to seeing you next week.

  3. jsomers (Post author)

    Elisabeth: Take the Jack Nicholson In As Good As It Gets Approach: “I think of a man and I take away reason and accountability” except, make it “I think of a story and I take away subtlety and an ending” and it all gets much easier.

  4. jsomers (Post author)

    First of all, just because you craved MAGIC BABY MARBLES on your chest with a butter knife at OTB doesn’t mean you own the idea. Second, joke’s on you, as I will not look directly at you all night, so I won’t *see* you. HAHA! JEFF WINS!

  5. Melanie Meadors

    Maybe 2011 just sucked for writers all around… Actually that can’t be true because there is this one guy I know who was like fricking King Midas last year. I think he got all the publication slots that were actually for the rest of us. I mean, I’m very happy for him. He’s a nice guy and all, but as you said, the whiskey doesn’t pay for itself ;). I actually have a pretty good feeling about 2012. I hope it will be a good year for you as well.


  6. patty blount

    I need to get better at brevity; it constantly comes up whenever anyone looks at my work. I did try a few shorts last year – actually, you read one – and then forgot about them. You’ve inspired me to try again this year.

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