No new story for The 52 this week, as I’m on holiday in Malaysia. It’s our last trip outside of India before we leave this part of the world forever in the Summer, so we’re determined to make the most of it. After a surfeit of beaches in the Philippines over xmas, this time round we’re taking a city break in Kuala Lumpa.
This blog isn’t going to be the same when the best we can do is a soggy weekend in Arran.
While I could have written a story in advance and had it auto-post today (which is what I’ve done here), it seemed a bit unfair to the next contributor to post the thing and then fail to tell anybody about it on the usual networks. That applies doubly, now that Story Idol (TM) is running.
You may remember that I decided to gather twenty stories from this experiment into two short ebook collections. I’m letting the world select which stories they are – the tales which receive the most reads according to the stats thingy that works in the background on this site are the ones that I’ll publish. Simples. I don’t imagine the books will sell very well – especially as the stories will all remain here for free – but it’s a nice way to mark the experiment. You never know, some latecomers to the project might want to catch up on a selection via their kindles instead of their browsers.
The first book will be drawn from stories published here in the first six months of the project. Here are the rankings so far. We’re only seven stories in, so it could well be that nothing here makes the final cut. Depends on what happens down the line.
It’s fun, tracking this – interesting too. Writers are awful judges of their own work as a rule. I’m often surprised when people tell me what their favourite of my novels or short stories are, because my opinion is usually very different. This little experiment is an interesting litmus test.
It’s not an entirely balanced chart, of course. Collaborators who share links to their story are obviously going to do better than those who don’t, and there are other random factors too (not least – did I write a story that inspires anybody who reads it to share it further?). I’m not too interested in keeping things balanced though. The rule is hard and fast – the most read ten stories from the first six months go in the first book. The most read stories from the second six months go in the second book. If people want to work to push their own stories in, that’s part of the fun.
Seven weeks and seven stories – and what’s come of it? Well, at the most basic level I’m having fun, and so are the people who have featured so far. That’s a win, and if nothing else occurs then it more than justifies the time spent. This is still where I go to when I need to relax.
The math is nice too. Counting up the reads (not page visits – I filter the results to page landings that have lasted more than two minutes, as I reckon if anybody’s there that long they are actually reading the story) you can see that, just seven stories in, the project has attracted 478 readers. A small number are repeat callers (hello!), but there are new visitors with each entry. I’ve been in books with less readers than that, so this is turning into a nice way to introduce myself to lots of new people. Hopefully some of them will come back every now and again.
When I started the project I also wanted to know what other things might happen if I set these stories loose. I was hoping for strange things, that I couldn’t predict. Nothing solid yet, but there’s the murmurings of a thing happening later down the line that might be fun, and we’re not even two months into this.
I promised last time that I’d give you a glimpse of how each story comes together. You probably imagine that I’ve written these a few weeks in advance, carefully pulling together images and themes and stacking up the stories ahead of time.
You don’t know me at all, do you?
After I post a new story, I take a couple of days off. On Wednesday or Thursday I scan through the images I’ve been sent, and see what shouts the loudest at me. Once I’ve selected it, I do nothing at all over the weekend.
That’s how I write. I do nothing. I think, and toss things around in my head, and try to hold on to anything good that occurs to me, and follow weird tangents, but I don’t do anything.
Then on Monday morning, after I’ve dropped my daughter off at school, I start typing. I stop when I have a story. If things have gone well and I’m ahead of time, then I put it aside for an hour or two and rework it before putting it online. If the tale has been a struggle and I’m out of time, then as long as it has an ending I post it. It’s usually more the latter than the former.
And that’s it.
The results have been all the more exciting (for me, anyway) because when I start typing I don’t usually know how it’s going to come out. A few hours later, it’s time to show and tell. The journey from nothing but an image to a full story, in so short a space of time, is a frantic and so far joyous thing. So far the stories have run the gamut from things I don’t really think are finished yet (I’ve written before the idea is properly developed, and done it little service), to some very happy surprises. It’s those surprises that keep me going.
I hope you’ve found some surprises in there too. Remember – if you find a story that you like, please do share it. Nobody will find these if you don’t.