I’ve been reading author Michael Bracken’s blog, which I discovered through Graham Powell’s CrimeSpot. Although I don’t think Bracken and I have ever met, I’ve been aware of his work as both writer and editor for quite some time, and I’ve found his blog to be a fascinating chronicle of what it’s like to live the life of a full-time short fiction writer. The constant drive to write more stories, keeping multiple manuscripts out to market at the same time, the rejections and the resubmissions to different markets, the acceptances and contracts and checks showing up in the mailbox to balance out the rejections . . . I find all of this very interesting because that’s exactly the sort of life I lived for about a decade, mid-Seventies to mid-Eighties. And Bracken’s been doing this for over thirty years. As difficult as it was to make a living that way back when I was doing it, I can’t imagine what it’s like now when the markets for short fiction have shrunk even more. At least I always had MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE and various men’s magazines that bought my stories regularly. Once I even got a check out of the blue for 35 bucks because one of my stories had been reprinted in a DUDE ANNUAL. Or was it a GENT ANNUAL? I forget. Either way, I was really happy to get the check.
All this got me to thinking about how much pure fun it is to write short stories. I hardly ever write them anymore; maybe one or two a year, and some years I don’t write any. Don’t get me wrong – I love writing novels and get tremendous satisfaction out of doing so. But the enjoyment of writing a good short story is both more immediate and more intense. Novels are marathons; short stories are sprints. Beside my computer is a scrap of paper with a mixture of ideas and titles for short stories scribbled on it, seven of them in all. They’ve been floating around in my head for a long time, and one day a year or so ago I decided I’d better jot them down or I’d risk forgetting about them. I planned to write the stories themselves as soon as I got the chance, just for the fun of it, and then try to sell them. So far I haven’t written any of them. But maybe this year . . .
I was also prompted to think about this by the fact that yesterday I read page proofs for one of my rare short stories that will be appearing soon in an anthology. More details on that when the time comes. But I had a really good time reading those page proofs, and they reminded me how much I enjoyed writing the story. I wouldn’t go back to being a full-time short fiction writer – but that sort of life has its compensations, too.