Orca editors’ note: To help bring in the new year we wanted our blog to offer something inspirational to writers. Conor Barnes’s recent post on his accomplishments over the past year seemed like a perfect fit.
This year I resolved to write 100 short stories, and over eleven months I achieved it. I am absolutely pleased that I achieved it. This is a post of general reflections on the process and the results.
This all came about because I wanted to push myself as a writer, enjoy writing short stories, and was inspired by Visakan Veerasamy’s do 100 things proposal. Doing 100 things is something I would strongly recommend for anybody trying to get good at something.
I went for breadth more than for depth. I wrote about lovers and war and fools and the anxious. I wrote happy stories and sad stories. I wrote fairy tales and science fiction and literary fiction and one Chrono Trigger fanfiction. I thought they would all be microfiction, but the average length was at the higher end of flash fiction. The first one snuck in on December 12, 2021 and is one of my favourites. The last one was written on November 30 and is also one of my favourites.
I reread them frequently. This might be abnormal—but because I wrote the kind of stories I like to read, I enjoy reading them quite a bit! Simultaneously, it helps surface issues, by noticing bits that chafe on every read.
I wrote in a variety of conditions. Often in bed, sometimes at a cafe, a few on my girlfriend’s armchair, a few on a couch beside some lovely writers, a few in a notebook at a beach. Whenever possible, I used Abricotine because I find it much more pleasant than word processors, but my longest were written on plane rides on Google Keep.
The Publication Process
I started the year by publishing pieces on my blog, then I mostly settled on submitting to online magazines. Both are documented here.
I submitted 342 pieces (places usually asked for three pieces, so this actually means a bit over 100 submissions). Rejection didn’t really bother me. Much gratitude to the editors at Orca, who supplied wonderful feedback at what I think is a steal of a price.
I am not sure what comes next with my short stories. In August I decided that I had been published enough online and now wanted to just submit very deliberately to magazines. Shortly after that I was hired at 80,000 Hours though, so that slowed down significantly. What I’d like most is to publish a chapbook, so that might be my next venture alongside editing.
I strongly feel that I have leveled up as a writer. Funnily, I don’t think my last piece was stronger than my first piece—but at the beginning of the year I could do one kind of voice, and now I can do many.
I worry that I have the common poet problem of assuming that readers taste the profundity I do. More generally, I want to be sure that I am generating in readers the feelings and images I am feeling. When I imagine a serpent long enough to wrap around the world, I want the reader to picture it as mysteriously and horribly as I do. I know I have improved at this, and I know I still have a long way to improve.
I am not yet the writer I want to be. I think the next step is to go for depth instead of breadth—devotedly focus on leveling up a particular style. This could be by writing a novel (I’ve had an idea percolating for years!) or by working on a few, particular short stories.
I explored questions that would otherwise have been blog posts: Would a society that defeats aging become risk-averse? If we had a Marvel-style multiverse, what would regular people do with it? I created sentences I’m still proud of. I became more attuned to the quirks and ugliness and beauty of the world.
The greatest joy has been in sharing. My girlfriend has been a lovely listener minutes after I’m done writing a piece. Friends have graciously read pieces sent as Github gists or FB messages.
Thanks to friends who responded to entire short stories in Facebook messages. Thanks to the magazines who published me (Blink Ink and the Parliament Literary Journal even published physically!) and the editors who gave feedback. Thanks goes to the wonderful writers with whom I got to share stories. My biggest thanks go to my girlfriend for being both endlessly supportive and an excellent editor.
Conor Barnes is a Canadian writer living in Halifax. His fiction has been published in the Apple Valley Review, White Wall Review, the Metaworker Literary Magazine, and elsewhere. His poetry has been published in Modern Haiku, Frogpond, and Puddles of Sky Press.