Art by Les Edwards

To quote Gordon Ramsay: “I’ve had enough!”

It’s official: I have decided to stop writing short stories altogether to focus exclusively on novels. Short stories can be fun, but there are a number of reasons why they simply don’t work for me anymore:

Art by Frazetta

1)  Publishers by and large are not interested in my short stories. For various reasons, it’s damn near impossible for me to break into new markets with my short fiction. Always has been. I don’t really know why–except that I write to please myself and maybe what pleases me simply does not please the general public or the editors who serve them. I’m not about to start catering to tastes or writing for trends, so…who needs it? The most obvious answer is that I’m simply not very good at writing short stories. Or at least the kind that sell.

2) Short stories don’t pay well. Sometimes they don’t pay at all. There are some high-paying markets, but my experience there has been a series of closed doors, blank walls, and a denial of my basic existence as a writer. In other words: Why am I trying so hard to sell stories that nobody wants to publish? Forget about it.

3) Even when you get a short story accepted, you have to wait months or years to see it in print. Again, it’s not worth it. I’d rather slave over a novel for a few years, then get it out to thousands of people, than to keep writing short stories for an ever-shrinking audience of magazines.

Art by Josh Kirby

4) Life is too short. I’m much better at writing novels (got five of those published–three of them internationally via Orbit/Hachette). I’ve written six novels altogether, and only one of those proved unpublishable. So my success rate at novels is 5/6, or 83%. Not bad! However, my success rate at short stories is too low to even slap a number on (see above). At this point in life I’d rather focus my creative drive on something I know I’m good at.

Life is a never-ending process of learning about yourself and your world. What I’ve learned since “going professional” is that my novels are much better received than any of my short fiction. So I’m going to stop wasting my time trying to write “a perfect short story” over and over again–and focus instead on something I’ve had decent success at doing, i.e. writing and selling novels.

If my next novel doesn’t sell, then the world will be sending me a different message at that point, and in that case I may decide to stop writing altogether. But that’s another bridge, and I’ll cross it when I get to it. Hopefully, I’ll finish this current novel by the end of next summer, my agent will dig it, and one of the Big Publishers will publish it. That’s the goal. However, I don’t plan to spend the rest of my life tilting at windmills (Don Quixote reference–literature!).

All of this comes as I’m about to turn 50. Naturally, it’s a time when you start to re-examine your life and re-set some priorities. My priority is to write novels. I’m giving myself one more “shot” to keep that goal alive. But if it doesn’t work out, it won’t be the end of my life. I’ll move on to something else.

So consider me a novelist who used to write short stories. Some of them even got published.

As for the novel I’m writing now, it’s a “fantasy noir” epic that I’ve tentatively titled IMMACULATE SCOUNDRELS. I’m approaching it differently than all of my other novels, writing it in a different way, taking more time to really think through things before I commit them to paper. So hopefully this will pay off by resulting in a book that mainstream publishers can’t wait to get their hands on. Or…it could be my swan song. I simply don’t know for sure, and there’s only one way to find out: WRITE THE BOOK.

So, unlike Elvis Costello, I may not be writing the book “every day” (obscure 80s reference!), but I am writing it–slowly but surely. I’m in no hurry. And the world is in no hurry to get a new novel from me. Everything is going to turn out exactly as it is supposed to turn out, no matter what happens.

Short stories? Been there, done that.

Time to move on.