To steal and mangle some other writer’s most famous opening line: My dual career in 2018 was the best of times and the worst of times.
On the other hand, my productivity fell through the floor, and I completed only 19 new stories, including one co-authored with Sandra Murphy that will be published in a Maxim Jakubowski-edited anthology in 2019.
I previously discussed two of the reasons for the decrease in output, one psychological (“The Obstacle Ahead is a Mirror”) and one the time-consuming side-effect of increased sales (“Do You Want Cheese with That Whine?”). Not mentioned in either post are my increased editing responsibilities, both crime fiction anthologies and magazine non-fiction.
I write a fair amount in any given year, but I only track the word counts of completed short fiction, and in 2018 I wrote 19 stories totaling 68,250 words. Unfortunately, this is the worst year since I started keeping track in 2009. (In 2009, my best year, I wrote 75 short stories totaling 216,310 words.)
The shortest story was 250 words, the longest story was 13,500 words, and the average length was 3,592 words.
Four stories were written by invitation. The rest were for open-call anthologies, for markets where I’ve previously placed stories, or for no particular market at all.
Seventeen of the stories are crime fiction of one sub-genre or another, one is a cross-genre mix of science fiction and crime fiction, and one is horror.
I had 34 stories published in 2018. Eighteen are crime fiction, 11 are erotica, one is fantasy, and four are romances.
Sixteen stories appeared in print publications, seven in web-based or electronic publications, and one appeared on the web and in print. Ten were released in audio format.
Twenty-nine of the stories are originals and the rest are reprints (“Smoked” in The Best American Mystery Stories 2018) or audio releases of previously published stories.
Forty-seven stories were accepted for publication. Twenty-three are crime fiction, 20 are erotica, three romance, and one fantasy. A few counted as erotica are cross-genre (erotic crime fiction, erotic fantasy, etc.).
Thirty-six stories are originals and 11 are reprints or audio rights of previously published stories.
Two pieces of crime fiction were “accepted” by anthologies I am either editing or co-editing, perhaps proving that sometimes it is who you know.
Note that I wrote no erotica, fantasy, or romance in 2018, yet I placed original stories in all three genres.
I received 39 rejections in 2018, and any year in which acceptances outnumber rejections is a good year.
I received one unacceptance. An anthology that accepted a story in 2016 was cancelled in 2018, and my story—which had been paid for—was returned. The story sold to the next editor who saw it, resulting in a second check.
I also received my first-ever unrejection. A magazine rejected one of my stories and six weeks later contacted me and asked if the story was still available. It was. Read more about what happened at “The Rejection Reversal with Michael Bracken.”
For the past several years, my annual goals were to complete and submit an average of one short story per week and to receive an average of one acceptance per week. At the beginning of 2018, following the 2017 collapse of two of my primary markets, I realized these goals were no longer realistic. So, my primary goals in 2018 were to rebuild and re-establish myself as I moved into new markets and/or new genres.
During 2018, I placed work in several new or new-to-me markets but made no significant progress in cracking new genres. Though I did sell one fantasy short story, saw another published, and wrote one horror story, I made no other efforts to expand my genre palette. Instead, I concentrated on writing various sub-genres of crime fiction, including some not previously part of my oeuvre.
As I look forward to 2019, I’ve decided not to set concrete goals. The past year was filled with so much change that I’m unable to envision how things might shake out. More editing opportunities? More submission invitations? That novel I was approached about?
I’ve no clue.
So, I think 2019 will be the year I just roll with it. I’ll try to take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way and see what happens. Maybe by the end of 2019 I’ll once again have a clear view of the future and can set concrete goals for 2020.
Until then, I’m prepared for a wild ride.
The tail-end of 2018 and beginning of 2019 saw several stories published: “Little Bubba Visits the Roadhouse” in EconoClash Review #3, “The Fishmonger’s Wife” in the Winter 2019 issue of Pulp Literature, “Split Decision” in the January 2019 issue of The Digest Enthusiast, and “Wishing Tree” in the January/February 2019 Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.