Friday, January 29, 2016
I started on January 1, 2015, with the goal of reading at least one short story every day for a year. The "rules" I set for myself meant that I could catch up when necessary, but I couldn't read ahead. So if I missed two days while away for a weekend, I had to make up those dates. But if I was caught up and still felt like reading a few short stories on any given day, those did not count towards future dates. Hence the 445 stories in a 365-day year. While the number sounds impressive, I feel compelled to mention that a lot of the stories I read were flash fiction, which I define as under 1,000 words.
Another "rule" was that stories had to be published, so the dozens of unpublished stories I've critiqued for both online and in-person groups were not counted.
I had two main reasons for doing this. First, I hoped that reading so many short stories would allow me to absorb some wisdom that I could incorporate into my own writing. Second, I wanted to become a more informed voter for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards. I feel as though I definitely accomplished the latter, although I'm also hopelessly aware that these stories are barely a drop in the bucket compared to what's out there. Whether my own writing has gained any benefit from this experiment, I can't say. I'm submitting and selling more than ever before, but I think that has more to do with how much I'm writing rather than how much I'm reading. That said, reading can never be bad for a writer, and I do not understand writers who say they don't read other authors' work.
In any case, because I love data, I kept very detailed records. Here are some observations:
What I Read Most
It's worth mentioning that these are all actually good ratings. If I rate a story 2.5 stars, that means that I think it was average, and the things I like and dislike about it are about equal. So anything above that means better than average. I also had at least one 4 or 4.5 star rating for most of those publications. Most, but not all, were science fiction or fantasy.
It's also important to note that this is by no means random. I'm always listening to other people's recommendations, so if someone has described this great story that they read on Lightspeed or Clarkesworld and I like the sound of it, it has a much better chance of pleasing me than a story I've picked at random from a small publication. And that's OK -- this reading is for me. Finally, I should mention that lots of magazines ended up with even higher average ratings, but they were based on only a couple of stories.
New Favorite Authors
A Few Dead Markets
For this first part of the year, my intention is to read as much 2015 work as possible for award nomination and voting purposes. That's my intention, but I have to admit that when a Daily Science Fiction story shows up every day in my inbox, it often catches my eye and I read it. And if I then get busy, well, I've already read a story that day and have less incentive to go looking elsewhere. I'd also like to spread my reading around a bit more, but at the same time, I want to read a lot of stories from the same markets. Maybe I should be going for two a day....
Data-wise, I'm now keeping more careful track of story word counts so that I don't have to scramble later, trying to remember if it's a short story, novella, or novelette. And I'm keeping the spreadsheet as I go, so I don't have to spend all of January next year compiling a year's worth of information! I also want to be able to easily run the numbers for how many stories I read that were published in a given year.
One thing I won't change: in my monthly posts, I talk about my favorite stories of the month. I list everything I read, but I have no plans to discuss stories I didn't like. I think the closest I might come is if I love most of a story but one thing breaks it for me -- but even that I'm not sure about. That said, if I list a story as read but don't discuss it, that doesn't necessarily mean I didn't like it. In fact, I might like it a lot. I may just not have anything to say about it.
So yeah, it's been fun. You know that recent meme on Facebook? Here's my version:
This is Amy. Amy reads lots of short fiction. Amy is smart. Be like Amy.