The beginning of everything is the mother of everything — Ursula K. LeGuin, in her rendering of the Tao Te Ching
In mid-April of 2018, I submitted part one of my five-part novelette, The Plunge Pool, to the Medium literary publication Lit Up. My first Medium post, it was published on April 28, kicking off my first year of publishing my fiction — and other things — on Medium.
Since then I’ve published eight works of short fiction in literary publications around Medium. Eight stories doesn’t sound like much, especially when the enormous firehose of good stuff on Medium makes it feel as if you must continually pump out new stuff to stay relevant. Still, my eight short stories, taken together, come to 34,000 words, or 131 minutes of reading by Medium’s reckoning. That’s the equivalent of a five-minute story every two weeks, a rate that is not as prolific as some writers around here, but not bad for a part time writer. A few of those pieces were distributed by Medium curators in Fiction and other topics. That was a nice treat. I also published a few short non-fiction pieces and two short poems.
In the process, I’ve learned many things. Here are a few of them:
- Medium has a wonderful literary fiction and poetry community, even if it sometimes feels overshadowed by the massive non-fiction presence on the site.
- As Jack Preston King pointed out, you can get more literary readers on Medium than on most literary journals.
- The edited literary pubs are a great way of increasing exposure for a writer with few followers.
- Medium curation is a big deal for views and reads, but like any other publication submission process, the curators will choose what they choose. Generally their choices are good, but they might not pick me. All I can do is put my best work out there and hope they pick it.
- You can’t expect readers to click through links. A good title, subtitle, and image are crucial, and even then most people who see it won’t click. They won’t even click to see the continuation of a story that they just read part of. My second most popular story, by both views and reads, is The Plunge Pool• Part 4, the penultimate chapter of my five-part novelette. It was distributed by curators (but not in any topics) on the day it was posted, and it continues to get views and reads. However, based on the stats, it’s obvious that almost none of those readers click through to read the last part of the story, and very few click the link to begin at the first chapter either.
- Nobody really cares who I am, and that’s good. My stats over the last year prove that what people really care about is not me, but my work. When my fiction is good, it gets read. Authentic insights into my personal thoughts and feelings — like what you’re reading right now — don’t matter. All that matters is the work.
- When one publishes as infrequently as I do, Top Writer in Fiction status is a rare treat. I’m immensely grateful for the times when I’ve had it. Which leads me into my next section…
One very important reason I’m writing this retrospective is to thank the editors of the publications that have been kind enough to publish my stories and who do the great work of getting so much literature out there on Medium: DiAmaya Dawn, A Maguire, Pat Link, and Tom Conley at Lit Up; Dan Moore, Kay Bolden, and anna breslin at PS I Love You; Stephen M. Tomic at The Junction; and Heath ዟ, Indira Reddy, and Anna Rozwadowska at Literally Literary.
I’d also like to thank everyone who took the time to highlight or comment on my stories, my nonfiction, and even my poems. Highlights and comments are really the feedback that makes it worthwhile, this list includes (in no particular order): Inge Moore, Jennifer Ponig, Cynthia Griffin, Gene Rosen, Paul S. Medus, Marla Anderson, Emma poe, Zarina Dara 🥀💃🏻, Pat Link, Stephen M. Tomic, Awful Pictures, Thuận Sarzynski, Jack Preston King, Valerie Kittell, Mark Starlin, Rowan Fortune (RTE), Bonnie Flach, Valerie Hilal, and James Finn.
I would be happy to thank everyone who clapped for my stories by name as well, if there were an easy way to list everyone in one place. If you’ve read my stories and clapped, thanks so much!
Here’s a catalog of the stories I’ve posted so far: 8 short fiction stories, 4 non-fiction stories, and two poems (if I can be so bold as to call them that). I’ve included a few notes on each. I may publish more detailed notes on the genesis of each story some other time.
- Schrödinger’s Ham — Jackson had arrived at the time in a boy’s life when the eating begins. The real eating. (15 min read, curated in Fiction and Family) Fictionalized memoir. Family. Kids. A tiny bit of science. This one was fun to write, and people seem to really like it. Published in Literally Literary.
- Movie Stars and Planets — A nerd and two starlets walk into a Hollywood party… (28 min read, curated in Fiction) — My favorite story so far, I think. Not science fiction, but sciency fiction. Published in Lit Up.
- The Shade — A peri-apocalyptic love story. (21 min read, curated in Fiction, Space, Science, and Writing). My best-crafted story? Near-future, hard science fiction. Very dark. My mom called me after reading it to tell me how disturbed she was by it. But it’s about love, I promise. Published in P.S. I Love You.
- The Plunge Pool — Sometimes you want to float. Sometimes you just can’t. (35 min read). Fictionalized memoir, also published as a five-part serial. An exploration of working-class vs. college-bound, urban vs. rural, fearful vs courageous, on a road trip to a rural swimming hole in western Pennsylvania in 1988. Published in Lit Up.
- Unboxing Rose — Not your typical tech unboxing. (8 min read) — A short cyberpunkish sci-fi piece. The opening chapter of a future novel? Published in Lit Up.
- Artist. Unknown. — The girl knew what she had to do, but didn’t know she knew it. (16 min read) — A story about the conflict between love and one’s ambitions. Published in The Junction.
- Racing the Avalanche — …horny kids are rarely wise. (9 min read) — Lust vs. good sense. Just because someone looks like a man, doesn’t mean he’s not really still a boy. Published in P.S. I Love You.
- Selene and Endymion — He would have gladly begged her to leave. Or to stay. (2 min read) — A short scene from the novel I’m working on, taken totally out of context as flash fiction or a prose poem. Published in P.S. I Love You.
I’ve also recorded myself reading some of my stories. Two of them are on-line so far. You can find them in the audio page of my blog, or on my SoundCloud profile. I will try to record more as time allows.
When I started publishing my fiction here, I promised myself that I would focus my effort on fiction. I wasn’t going to blog and I especially wasn’t going to write about writing. Huh. I did it anyway. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
- Recording My Stories — (Curated in Creativity) My simple process for recording readings of my stories and posting them on-line. You can hear recordings are embedded in Artist. Unknown. and Unboxing Rose.
- Attack of the Fake Medium Accounts — Notice anyone weird following you lately?
- Don’t Split Up Long Stories — Thoughts on my experiences posting stories longer than 10 minutes as parts versus as whole stories. I still basically agree with my conclusion, up to a point: Stories that were written with a chapter structure can and should probably be posted as chatpers, but true short stories are meant to be consumed as a unit in a single sitting.
- Notes to Self on Writing Fiction — A super-low-effort listicle of my random thoughts on the fiction writing process, jotted down in the order that the thoughts came to me. I still add to it occasionally, mainly to reinforce the thoughts in my own mind.
I’m not a poet.
- Sunset Cruise — An original photograph and accompanying short poem. Summer in Texas. Published in Lit Up.
- Marlboro Girl — A poem I found in a journal from 1996, lightly edited. Long ago I was a smoker. Published in Lit Up.
Well, two things.
First, like others (Mark Starlin, DiAmaya Dawn), I’ve created a personal publication to better organize my writing. Want to find it? Scroll up. This post is in it. 😀 Or you can click here. I still plan to submit my short stories to the same great lit pubs I’ve been submitting to for the last year, but I’ll use this pub for all the other stuff — blog posts, audio, announcements, etc.
Second, I’m working on a novel! I actually started working on the story a couple of years ago, then decided that I had no idea what I was doing and set the work aside to focus on developing my craft with short stories. I’ve picked it up a few times since then, and now I have about 14,000 words drafted. Some of that is good. Some is very bad and will have to be rewritten.
I’m not sure how I plan to publish this thing — if and when I’m ready to — but some possibilities are to publish it in parts in one of the great lit publications I’ve mentioned, or to publish it in parts on my personal pub, or to create a separate pub for it. Decisions.
That’s all for now. Looking forward to where the road takes me in the next year!