Tag: goals

2022 In Preview

Going into the New Year like…

2021 was a big year. Aside from having a kid that turned my world upside down, I published two works and made really good progress on a new novel. Initially, I wanted to use the momentum built up in 2021 to launch into 2022 and beyond. However, when I actually sat down to set some realistic goals, with realistic timelines for each, I realized that I won’t be able to capitalize on any momentum built in 2021 right away. See, I made a Gantt chart. Gantt charts don’t lie.

When things I learned at work come in handy in my personal life.

Essentially, I took my word count goal per week (4,000–same as last year) and extrapolated that out by how many words I would expect to get in a month and how long I expect each project to take. This allowed me to prioritize and plan out my projects for the next year. The colors designate when I’m actively writing, when things should be out in review, when I’m marketing, and when I’m publishing. There are more projects and pretty colors than are shown here, but you get the idea.

So, with that said, what are my goals this year?

PROJECTS

My goals here are based on the number of words I expect to write per month and the priority I’ve chosen for my projects. This priority is subject to change. For example, last year I had a time travel novel outlined and ready to go, when I decided to scrap it in favor of what I’m working on now. Some of these timelines are ambitious, and I don’t realistically expect to meet any of them, but I think it sets a solid foundation for what I want to achieve in the year. Here’s what I hope to accomplish:

New Novel: Titled (for now) THE END OF EVERYTHING, I wrote nearly 50,000 words of this in 2021. If I can stick to my word count goals I should finish this by the beginning of March, do a revision through April, and have it out to beta readers in May and June before doing a second revision in July. At that point I’ll see how I feel about it to decide what the next steps might be.

Novel Revision: Nearly five years ago I wrote a novel called THE INHABITORS. I spent a year writing it, another year revising it, and then gave it to beta readers. I got a lot of great feedback, but one critique in particular has stuck with me. The problem is that it requires overhauling major parts of the story. I ignored it for a long time, implementing all sorts of other changes, but I need to do it. It will make the story much stronger, and the experience I’ve gained over the past few years has made me a much stronger writer than I was then. And so March and April will be dedicated to that overhaul, assuming I meet my schedule for THE END OF EVERYTHING.

This is one I plan to self-publish, which means that once it’s done I need to find a professional editor and then do another revision. Hopefully that can be done end of spring / early summer while THE END OF EVERYTHING is with beta readers. What I’m really looking forward to, though, is putting together the marketing plan for this one. I didn’t do any marketing for ANH NGUYEN or THROUGH DARK. But for THE INHABITORS I plan to do as much of a full-court press as I can afford / manage. More on that below.

New Novella: Last year, before I started on THE END OF EVERYTHING, I began a new novella that I plan to self-publish this year. I envision it being between 20,000 and 30,000 words, 6,000 of which are already written. I hope to get a first draft done while THE END OF EVERYTHING is with beta readers and THE INHABITORS is with the pro editor. Then I can basically alternate months where I’m working on it or it’s with beta readers / a pro editor before self-publishing at the end of the year.

Series Idea: A while ago I came up with an idea for a novel that could lead to a series. I really love the concept, and if everything goes well I can do a research trip and write just under half of the first book before year end.

Web Series: It’s been a long time since I’ve applied my creative energies to a visual medium. I’d like to change that this year. I have an idea for an 11-episode web series that I want to use as a way to market THE INHABITORS. The plan is to write and film 3-5 minute episodes that are released weekly here, on YouTube, and via Twitter. Hopefully people like them. If so, I have a really ambitious idea for a season two. So ambitious it’ll never realistically happen, but a boy can dream. I hope to get this done in late summer / early fall, with THE INHABITORS following on its heels with publication in the fall.

WEBSITE GOALS

This is the last year of my initial plan for this website. The first two years haven’t been as successful as I was hoping, but much of that is on me. I’m inconsistent with posting, sometimes going months between blogs and never being able to maintain the vignette schedule. Considering my other goals for this year, I don’t expect that to change.

Instead of trying to blog once or twice a week, as I’ve done the past two years, which requires a lot of thought and effort, I’m going to shift focus. I’ll still blog sporadically, particularly when a new vignette goes up or I read / watch something I want to unpack. My expectation is that blog posts will decrease, but the length of each individual post will increase. That may be a net good.

That said, I do want to put more effort into the vignettes. They’re good practice for me, in writing and photography, and I enjoy doing them. I can also work them into my word count goals, which isn’t something I can really do with the blog. These are words, sure, but they’re not words that will ultimately help me reach a creative goal. Vignettes on the other hand, can be reused in collections or expanded into other types of prose.

So, once a month expect a new vignette and “behind the vignette.” (Maybe.)

CAREER GOALS

Ah… the day job. I’m lucky, in a lot of ways. I have stability, I’m paid well, and there is plenty of flexibility where I am. Still, after everything I wrote above, it feels strange to say I have career goals for the thing that I don’t want as a career.

But, the day job supports me and my family, makes everything else possible, and my other goals tend to live and die by what’s going on there. For example, our busy season is over summer, so I know that my word count will probably take a major hit. I have to be prepared for that.

An added wrinkle is that I’ve seriously considered jumping ship to a different place. If I did that I’d be giving up a lot of privileges I currently enjoy. And that, too, might affect my other goals. I won’t have the flexibility or clout that I have now.

What are my goals, then? Survive, mostly. Continue to mentor my team and improve the quality of our deliverables. Seize opportunity when it comes. The nice thing about my current position is that I control my own fate. We’ll have to see if and how that changes.

IN CONCLUSION

If 2020 and 2021 taught me anything, it’s that predictions are a fool’s game while there is unprecedented sickness and political upheaval happening. Throw a kid into that mix and it’ll explode.

I don’t expect to meet all my goals this year. I’m already something like 7,000 words behind. If I do end up changing jobs, that will only get worse. I do expect to meet some of them, though, and so the ambition is beneficial. If I get through the year with a healthy kid, happy wife, stable job, and another novel or published work under my belt, it’ll have been a good year.

2021 In Review

It’s important to sum up a year with the right image.

Whew boy! 2021 was a hell of a year, wasn’t it? At the highest levels of power in our world, we got a new President (thank the gods old and new), although Trumpism is still running rampant in our society–just like COVID-19. Neither of those things are going away anytime soon, as much as I wish they would, and part of that annoying longevity is because Trumpism and COVID feed one another. Like a snake eating its tail. Or, perhaps more accurately, a completed human centipede.

COVID (and by proxy, Trumpism) has pretty severely affected my life in the past year. My wife and I are doing everything we can to protect my son, who cannot be vaccinated because of his age, which means we have no social lives and rarely leave the house to do anything but work or pick up necessities. It’s been hard. Luckily for me, I married my best friend and our son has turned out to be pretty chill.

That’s all just context for reviewing the year. I set out a bunch of goals this year, as evidenced by this chart:

NIGHT OF CHAOS was eventually renamed ANH NGUYEN AND THE DISCORDIAN. As you can see, I was pretty ambitious going into the year. And as you can also see, I absolutely overshot my capabilities. But my goals also changed throughout the year. Here’s how.

WEBSITE

One of my core beliefs in building and maintaining this website is that if I update it consistently with good content I will build an audience. I have not been consistent. Whether the content has been good is an open question, I guess, although I’m genuinely proud of everything I post. At the beginning of the year I hoped to upload a single blog post every Friday–52 in total. I also hoped to post 12 vignettes. Finally, I wanted to start a newsletter and redo the front page to coincide with my book releases. How’d I do?

  • 24 blog posts
  • 4 new vignettes
  • No newsletter

I did redo the front page. So, despite my lack of activity on the website this year, how did I do with an audience?

  • 526 users
  • 741 sessions
  • 1,087 pageviews

Not great! How do those compare to 2020?

  • 526 users (no change)
  • 835 sessions
  • 1,525 pageviews

What does this mean? For one, it means the year’s not quite done. I don’t expect to make up over 450 pageviews in 20-something days, but I suspect I’ll end the year not too far off from that. It also means that consistent posting does make a difference, even if it’s a small one. Most of my traffic this year was due to directing people interested in my books through the website. Last year was a bit more organic.

PUBLISHING

My big goal this year was to publish two books. I decided on publishing ANH NGUYEN AND THE DISCORDIAN late last year, before sending it to a pro editor for feedback. Around that time I also realized I had enough material for a short story collection–that became THROUGH DARK INTO LIGHT. I wasn’t sure I’d have the skills, money, or time to get both out the door in the time I wanted, but I ended up making it happen. I’m proud of how both works turned out, despite the huge learning curve to self-publishing.

So, how much did I spend on self-publishing this year and how good was my ROI?

  • $1,558.09 spent to publish both books (ANH NGUYEN was more expensive)
  • 58 books sold (32 ANH NGUYEN and 26 THROUGH DARK)
  • $94.44 returned

Now, on its face that looks pretty bad. But, to be honest, I didn’t have any expectations for sales. These books were meant to do two things for me in the short term: 1) learn how to navigate self-publishing and 2) become part of my backlist for use later on.

I didn’t put any effort into marketing either book aside from a few posts on social media. I probably sold 75-80% of the books that way. The rest was organic search or word-of-mouth. What was encouraging, and sort of validates my emphasis on a backlist, is that releasing THROUGH DARK INTO LIGHT actually helped me sell additional copies of ANH NGUYEN AND THE DISCORDIAN. My current plan (and plans can always change) is to release my first novel next year, which should give both my novella and short story collection another bump. More on that in another post.

Regardless of sales numbers, I’m unreasonably proud of ANH NGUYEN and THROUGH DARK. I failed in a lot of my writing goals this year, but I made sure to succeed in the ones that mattered most to me.

WORD COUNT

Having struggled with word count goals in the past, I tried to set a reasonable one this year. If I have a good grasp on what I want to write (i.e., I have a plan) then I know I can write 1,000 words within an hour. That’s plenty of time to write in the morning before work. I set a goal to do this only four days per week, for a word count of 4,000 words per week. That totals 208,000 words in a year–two whole novels!

And then I became a father. Elijah was born in January, which meant I hit my word count goal once before my life got flipped upside down. It took me over eight months to meet my weekly goal again. Since then I’ve been pretty consistent, hitting my goal 10 of the last 15 weeks of the year. Here’s how the numbers shake out for 2021:

  • Total for year: 66,275 (31.86% of goal)
  • Average per week: 1,299.51
  • Average per day: 188

Considering how little time I ended up having this year between work and home life (more on that below), that’s not bad. I’m nearly halfway through a new novel and maybe a fifth of the way through a new novella, both of which should be finished in time for publication next year. I’m also now in a much better routine, which should help me to get closer to achieving my word count goals for next year.

PERSONAL LIFE

My non-writing life was certainly interesting this year. Obviously, the biggest thing to ever happen to me generally (let alone this year) was the birth of my son, Elijah. He is demanding, and fun, and interesting, and learning and growing at a rate that I can only describe as exponential. Like, one day after never being able to stand he just did it. And then he was standing from that moment onward. Never looked back. Never regressed. He’s constant motion in mind and body, this kid.

I love him. A lot. So, even though I get cranky when I can’t write (like the majority of this year), he deserves every spare second I can give him.

I was also officially promoted at work this year. I say “officially” because it’s something I had to negotiate based on the responsibilities I already had. There were also a lot of internal changes to my company, new approaches to how we do business, many of which I was either a part of or had to adjust to. I don’t love my day job–many days I downright dislike it!–but I do enjoy my company and my team. I couldn’t write at all without the flexibility my day job provides, and they’re very much a family first company, and so have been accommodating to Elijah.

We’re also still dealing with COVID. The most difficult thing, especially with a baby, is that COVID has kept us separated from our families. Since March, 2020 we’ve only seen my father in person twice. My mother I’ve seen (I think) three times in person. We video chat with them both once per week, mostly so they can see Elijah, but it’s tough being so far away from everyone. We canceled our plans to travel to Buffalo for Christmas because of how bad COVID has been. I don’t really know what else to say about it.

As I’ve written about before, hockey is important to me. It’s a way for me to socialize and get exercise (two things I sorely lack). When COVID initially got bad in March 2020, I quit playing. I didn’t play again until after my family was vaccinated, in June of this year. I played one season on two teams, and then the Delta variant hit. So I quit again, hoping that come Fall the numbers would drop. They did not. At this point, I consider myself unofficially retired. It makes me sad.

In all, on the personal side of things, it’s been a down year. Perhaps most indicative of that, and the way I’ve dealt with it, is that a childhood friend of mine died just before summer. He was one of my first and best friends growing up (and was actually the one to introduce me to hockey). In the years since becoming teenagers we had grown apart, and hadn’t actually spoken in a long time. In fact, I can’t remember the last conversation we had. I want to say it was outside of my father’s house when we happened to run into one another, but that can’t be right. That was too long ago. He did text me shortly before he died, but the text was barely comprehensible and, because he had struggled with substance abuse earlier in our lives, I assumed he had reached out to me on accident or was under the influence at that moment. I ignored it.

That really breaks my heart. I know, logically, that there wasn’t anything I could have done for him that would have changed the outcome. There were people in his life much closer to him than I was that he had to help him. But there’s also a part of me that wonders if maybe I’d have answered that text, if I’d have asked him how he was doing, if he’d still be with us.

To be brutally honest, though, it hasn’t effected me in the ways I would have expected. In fact, it’s barely effected me at all. The night I heard of his death I was upset. I cried. I wrote about it in my journal. But then it passed. I got caught up in Elijah, and maintaining our house, and dealing with my family, and work, and writing, and a myriad other things that blunted the blow. I feel like that’s where I am in life; when shit goes wrong I acknowledge it and move on.

One day maybe I’ll find out if that’s good or bad. It probably just is what it is. It does hurt to think I won’t run into him at a hockey tournament or bopping around Buffalo, though.

Luckily, I have my wife. She’s had a hell of a year herself, what with growing and then birthing a whole human being. She also graduated with her Psy.D and started working as a professional psychologist. If it weren’t for her steady presence (and expertise in psychology) I’d probably have gone insane by now.

IN THE END

It’s been a strange year. There was a lot to be sad or angry about (to say nothing of our politics at the moment), but in the end I feel like I’m ending in a better place than I began. I saw this year as sort of a transitional year, and that ended up being true in a lot of ways. So let’s hope that the seeds I planted this year–the books, the habits and routines–pay off in the long run.

Hopes for 2021

The last photo I took in 2020. I think it’s a good preview for 2021.

2020 is over. Finally.

2021 is here. A bright new year full of possibilities and (maybe) wonder.

I don’t think there’s a particularly good reason to make new year goals, and in fact I tend to revisit my goals every three months (planning pyramid FTW!), but there are some things I hope to accomplish this year. Putting them out into the world, at the very least, will hold me somewhat accountable.

Creative Life

I have several goals in this arena, barring another pandemic or something silly like having a child:

  • Dedicate words toward more stories and less blogs: I usually always set word count goals and I always miss them. Last year was 5,000 words per week, with the understanding that I can write 1,000 words per hour before work if I know what I’m trying to do. But… work didn’t end up being that predictable and this website and blog took up a lot of my creative time. So, having learned that lesson I’m doing two things: 1) going down to once per week blog posts instead of twice per week and 2) setting a goal of 4,000 words per week. In addition, I’m more closely tracking my word counts day-to-day and week-to-week to actually see how I’m progressing. So far… not so great. But we’ll get to that.
  • Publish one or two things: My novella is nearly ready to publish, now that it’s gone through a professional editor. She gave me a lot of confidence that I’m not the terrible writer I secretly suspect I am, while also pointing me in directions I hadn’t considered. Once those edits are done, I’m going to get a professional cover made and release it into the world. I would also like to collect the vignettes on this site and package them with longer original stories by the end of the year.
  • Revise my novel: This story has vexed me in so many ways, but I think I may have figured out the story-related thing that’s been bugging me. Turns out, it’s something a beta reader pointed out nearly two years ago that has stuck with me. I’ve resolved to do something about it. I don’t know if this novel is traditionally publishable since I don’t even know how to pitch it (which is more a fault with me than the novel), so we’ll see how my self-publishing experiments go.
  • Write a new novel: It’s outlined and much of the research is done, which is where I need to be to really hit my word count goals. Can’t say much more than that.
  • Miscellaneous: Let’s call these stretch goals. I want to finish a screenplay I started at the end of last year, and possibly enter some contests. I also want to start a newsletter to coincide with the release of the novella. We’ll see on that one. Finally, I’d like to be more engaged with the writing community. I could use the support and learning opportunities. This one is difficult. I’m not an socially outgoing person, and I don’t like social media. But I have some ideas.

A bit ambitious, I think, considering what my professional and personal life will look like. Speaking of…

Professional

My professional life is one that I don’t really make obvious goals for it. Most of what happens is outside of my control and requires flexibility. I want to survive, mostly, and maybe continue to put myself in leadership positions.

I think that’s the big one. I don’t really care about certifications or anything like that because they’re largely meaningless to my day-to-day work. Sure, there are learning opportunities in getting them, but mostly I find the ROI to be pretty low vis-a-vis time and effort. Being a good teammate and leader, though, is important to me. 2020 was tough because I was running up against issues with my first hire and had to do some tightrope walking to balance my employees needs with that of the company.

This year will be more of that, since I’m growing my team and we’ll all have more responsibility as the company continues to grow. In short, I want to be the type of manager I always wished I’d had when I was starting my career.

Personal

Nothing I do this year (or the next 18+ years, really) will be as important as Elijah. Nurturing him is my priority above all else. Sure, I have some goals, but I think it’s important to set them with the expectation that Elijah will come before any of them, so they may not get done. That goes for my creative and professional goals, as well. Little dude is gonna take over my life, and I’m perfectly ok with that.

All that said, I have set some personal goals for the year that are separate from my creative goals:

  • Money money money: I’ve never been a money-oriented person. It is the root of all evil, after all, so why would I want anything to do with that? As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve had a realization: my family needs money to live. Weird, I know. Caught me by surprise, too. Over the past few years I’ve gotten much better with money, but there’s always room for improvement. Like actually filling out expense reports so I’m not leaving money on the table. Setting up long-term investments. Paying down debts. That sort of thing.
  • Get in some sort of shape that’s not an amorphous blob: When I was playing hockey I didn’t worry as much about my health. Three to four times per week I was doing strenuous activity, which was enough to make me feel pretty good and keep my weight down. COVID has demolished all that. So I need to be disciplined and work out on my own.
  • Prioritize my mental health: I tend to think I’m stronger than I really am, so I allow myself to take on a lot until I reach a breaking point. I don’t want to do that, anymore, because it’s not good for me and it’s really not good for my family. Permission to take breaks, to step away from work when I’m overwhelmed, and generally giving myself permission to enjoy the life I’ve built without the guilt of my own ambitions.

***

That’s probably a lot, but I also try to aim high in the hopes that even missing will be progress toward my long-term goals. 2020 was unpredictable and weird for lots of reasons and 2021 promises to be even more of that, so I’m gonna keep that in mind. Hopefully, though, by this time next year the goals will be a little bit bigger because of the progress I’ll have made on these ones.

Reflections on 2020

This is the first photo I took in 2020. The rest of the year did not live up to this moment.

Wow. Thank God 2020 is over, yeah? Nowhere to go but up, and things will never be that bad again…

… is the joke everyone is making.

I recognize that in the long arcs of our lives, dates and years are arbitrary and only useful as an organizational tool. There is no reason to make goals just because it’s a new year, just as there’s no reason not to make goals at any other point in the year.

That said, mentally there is something nice about feeling like we get a fresh start because the calendar switched over. In that sense, I wanted to do an epic(?) two-part blog post to reflect on the things that happened to me this year, personally and professionally, and then talk about my hopes for 2021. 2020 was a strange year, obviously, in nearly every part of my life. There were lots of stressors, but I have to admit that, given the circumstances, things went pretty well in my creative, professional, and personal lives.

Creative Life

I came into the year with big plans–BIG PLANS I TELL YA–and failed to meet most of them. There are plenty of reasons for that which I’ll go into when discussing my professional and personal life, but it wasn’t devoid of progress.

First, this website. I started it back in December of 2019, with the idea that it would help me to be more disciplined, build an audience, and help me to develop my “brand.” I was fairly disciplined this year, updating the blog twice per week every week except for a *ahem* nearly three-month period where I only managed two blog posts total and purposefully didn’t update during a two-week vacation I had planned. Still, that’s 77 blog posts last year, which is a personal record. I was also disciplined about the vignettes, posting one per month except for that three-month period where I was MIA.

There isn’t much to report on the audience or “brand” front. My page view and engagement numbers are low enough to not even be worth mentioning and I don’t even know what a “brand” is in my case. I initially had ideas about how to build an audience, but was unable to follow through because of time constraints. I wouldn’t exactly say I bit off more than I could chew, but my experience this year has shown me that I need to better prioritize my time and consider other avenues toward finding my people.

I did a lot of writing this year without actually completing any major projects. Still, I wrote nearly 20 vignettes and short stories, started a new screenplay, outlined my next novel, and continued work on the novella. On that front, I decided to hire a professional editor in preparation for self-publishing the novella. I’ll probably write more about that experience later, but it was definitely worthwhile. I had my confidence boosted while also learning a lot about my writing and having things about the story pointed out to me that I hadn’t considered. I’m excited to finish the revisions and show it to everyone.

So, in all it was a good stepping stone year. I didn’t make any big moves, but I put a lot of the pieces in place to make those moves later on.

Professional

This was a strange year for me, professionally. First, it was very busy. Remember when I disappeared off the face of the planet for three months? It was because of my day job and it’s probably something that will happen to me around that time every year. I should have realized that and planned for it.

I took on a lot more responsibility this year. I’ve been with my company for six and a half years at this point, and for much of that my boss has expected me to shift into a management position. I’ve always been resistant to that because it feels like if I agree to middle-management I’m dead. Life is over. That’s what I am. But that’s not (wholly) true.

In fact, over the past few years my responsibilities have grown to the point that I was an unofficial manager, anyway. I’ve been the defacto lead of our little team for a while now, and have had a direct report since 2018. In short, I was already doing the thing I had resisted doing–only I didn’t have the title or the pay to go with it.

At the end of 2019, when our end-of-year raises were released, I brought this up to my boss. I came with data on my responsibilities and how they compared to the market, my experience, and what I expected my pay to be. He ran that up the chain and the word I got back was, “We didn’t realize you were already doing so much. Here’s your promotion.” It went into effect in January and over the course of the year I’ve continued to solidify my grip on our department (i.e., grow into the role). When raises came around again this year, I was given a substantial bump (relatively–COVID prevented anyone in the company that I’m aware of from getting a huge raise) and further responsibilities.

Long story short, I’m now middle-management. Yay?

Personal

My personal goals this year, whatever they were in January, were shot to shit within a few months. And then their corpses were stomped on and dragged through the dirty streets, spit on by every passerby, until their desecrated bodies were unceremoniously thrown into a ditch and buried.

But then a funny thing happened. They were reborn into things I didn’t even know I wanted.

For one, there is Elijah. My wife and I had tried to get pregnant in 2019, with no luck, and decided to hit pause until she finishes her internship later in 2021. Life had other plans, though, and she’ll have Elijah smack in the middle of the internship, instead.

Elijah led to us buying our first house. And then that house decided to make me regret it immediately with a flooded basement and myriad other problems that houses tend to have. Searching for and buying a house during a pandemic was certainly an interesting experience. Wouldn’t recommend it, though.

Other than those two things, my personal life was quiet. Aside from a careful visit from some friends over the summer, we haven’t seen any friends or family in person since March, and I’ve only played hockey once since the initial wave. With my wife being pregnant, we decided to minimize risks. So, it’s been a lonely year in that regard. Luckily, as a writer, I’m good with loneliness. It also helps that my wife is my best friend.

***

As I said before, 2020 was a weird year for more reasons than the pandemic (although the pandemic made it more weird). I’ll outline some of my goals for 2021 next week. That’s right, blog posts are going down to once per week this year. I’ll explain why next time. So stay tuned.

It’s a low bar, but I hope everyone’s 2021 is way fucking better than their 2020.

Organizing a Short Story Collection

These are short story collections.

Last year I made a plan. In 2020 I was going to build a website (check!), consistently update that website (mostly check!), and I was going to self-publish a novella and a short story collection (… not check…).

So obviously, 2020 being what it is, things have changed. When I made this plan there was no Covid on the horizon, I wasn’t thinking about buying a house, and I didn’t expect to become a father. Yet, somehow, all of those things happened. And you know what? I kinda like the unplanned stuff more (except Covid–that can suck a big fat donkey dick).

Anyway, all of those things are a delay, not a cancellation. The novella is written (but needs some editing, and a rewrite of at least one section), and I have enough stories to put together a collection. The plan was always to pull down the vignettes and collect them with unpublished stories. I’m going to do that, but as I sat to think about what that could look like I realized that short story collections are more complicated than just taking a bunch of stories and throwing them together.

First, if I’m going to self-publish something, even if it’s only priced for $0.99, I want the reader to get value out of it. A book made up of 12 vignettes would top out at 15,000 words, if that. I don’t think I’d buy that book, especially when the vignettes were already free online at some point. This wouldn’t be as simple as just collecting and self-publishing what is already on this site.

The idea was never to only do that, but I did want to ensure that I had enough stories of varying lengths to make a purchase worthwhile. I went through everything I’ve written, including what I knew I wanted to include, some works I wasn’t sure about, and ideas that aren’t written but I’m excited about. I put them all into a spreadsheet (youse know how much I love spreadsheets) and wrote down the exact page count for each, as well as whether the writing was a vignette, short story, or poem.

Seeing all the stories laid out quelled my fear that I wouldn’t have enough writing that I was proud enough to publish. I saw there was a decent mixture of lengths that, together, added up to something worth $0.99. The next step, then, was figuring out how to organize them.

I didn’t quickly find many articles online for organizing short story collections. That said, much of my thinking from here on out is influenced by this blog post from BOOKFOX, so instead of cribbing from it I’ll just point you there.

Specifically, I found guideline #3 to be helpful: “Build your own structure, and then order stories according to that logic.” The post describes five different types of structures for a collection–hourglass, möbius strip, mosaic, musical improvisation, and instant replay. The hourglass structure most appeals to me for this particular collection.

Having decided on a tentative structure (it may change as I work toward publication), I had to figure out how to fit the stories I chose into this concept. My stories tend to wander between genres, but touch on common themes or play with similar styles. I went back to my spreadsheet and added “Genre” and “Subgenre” columns. Sticking to only a few genres so as not to overcomplicate the exercise, I put the writings into loose groupings.

Then, on the advice to start with your strongest story to draw the reader in, I arranged the order from that story down. From there, I tweaked the order in which stories appeared to have a better flow from genre to genre, and from idea to idea. Now, the collections starts with a series of horror stories, eases into existential dread, turns into experimentalism, dovetails into romance and sci-fi (I tend to use sci-fi to explore romantic notions–who knew?), and ends on a dramatic note.

This collection has required far more thought than I expected, but it’s also challenged me to think deeply about what I’m including and why, and illuminated common themes in my work.

I hope to have the collection on Amazon by December or January.

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