John R. Fultz
Back in the Saddle
I think it's time to write short stories again.
About three years ago I "retired" from short stories to focus on novels. During that time I completed two new novels. However, those novels are now stuck in the limbo of Not-Yet-Published Land. If they were Hollywood movies, they'd be stuck in "development Hell." It's quite possible they will get published and become the first two books in a new series. It's also quite possible they will never get published. Ye pays yer money, and ye takes yer chances.
Therefore, the idea of writing a third novel when my last two are still unsold holds little appeal. Also, during these three years quite a few new indie markets for fantasy have popped up. So as I contemplate how to spend my summer--my Writing Season, as I call it--I'm once again feeling the call of the Short Story. Hell, if Robert Silverberg can quit writing fiction for five years, then come back and do it all again, then I can quite short stories and come back after three years to blow some doors down. Why not?
Today I bought a brand-new writing chair. So I will probably spend this summer cranking out a new "batch" of short stories. Having a couple of finished novels in my pocket (so to speak) will allow me to forget about producing novels for awhile. It usually takes waaaay longer to find a publisher for a novel than to actually WRITE that novel. At least for me, the Rodney Dangerfield of fantasy publishing ("No respect! I don't get no respect, I tell ya!")
Fiction writers aren't the only creatives to face long periods of struggle with only flashes of success now and then. Comedians bang out set after set for year after year until they catch a break and get a NetFlix or HBO special--or some other gig that makes them a success. Bands tour and record for decades sometimes, without EVER experiencing "mainstream" success--in fact, that's how most rock bands stay alive these days.
Actors wait tables and driver Uber while they wait for that "big break" and the one role that puts them over the edge. Sometimes you get a big success--like a three-book deal with a major publisher--then you go back to being an underground sensation after the third book comes out.
There's also the fact that 99.9% of published writers never "make it" as defined by the Dream of the Writer. In other words, most writers keep their day jobs. They don't do it for the money (although checks are nice), they do it because they love creating stories and sharing them with readers. I'm blessed to have a day job (teaching) that I enjoy--not that it's easy--it can be ass-kickingly difficult sometimes--but deciding to become a teacher at the age of 35 was the best decision I ever made. I'm one of the lucky few who enjoy their jobs.
Since I don't have to make a living from writing fiction, I'm allowed to write whatever the F##K I want to. And that, too, is a blessing. Even when nobody wants to publish it. It's still mine, and it'll find an outlet eventually. The trick is to keep writing, keep creating, keep working at the craft until the world catches up to your own unique vision.
So... In about seven weeks, my new Writing Season begins.