The inspiration of anthologies ...
Updated: Jan 21
I hate writing prompts. Seriously, whenever I read a book about writing or attend a writing event and a prompt is given, I run the other direction. Why? I think part of my aversion is that I already have too many stories rattling around in my head demanding to be written, that the idea I'd spend some of my precious writing time on a topic I didn't choose is frustrating to me. I NEVER want to add any more frustration to the writing process than I already experience.
However, I discovered a sneaky way for me to accept something very similar to a writing prompt without getting irrationally defensive: open calls for themed anthologies.
My initial reactions to these is very similar to that of writing prompts.
I'll read them, then I'll brush them off.
I'll say to myself, "I don't have anything ready that fits that," or "My larger projects are taking up all of my time."
But the idea has already been planted. It percolates in my brain when I'm driving or walking my dog. Then ...
An idea hits me. A scene forms. It's not long before I'm crafting the entire story in my head.
However, a story sparked by the call for an anthology is different than some randomly offered writing prompt.
Here's why ...
1) There's a deadline.
I work better with a clock counting down. Having a date to aim for makes it clear how many words I need to get down a day to reach a goal.
2) There's a pre-built house for my story.
At no point do I need to worry about whether or not my story can be shopped around, or if there's an audience for it. That call has been put out, and I know exactly where to send my submission!
3) A word count is required and it is low.
No matter when an anthology call goes out, I'm going to already be working on something else. I don't take breaks from writing. At least not that last longer than a day or two. But anthologies are normally looking for submissions somewhere between 5,000-20,000 words. That's a week or two of writing for me. A relatively short time I'm willing to step away from a larger project. Plus, less words = less daunting.
4) If I don't get accepted it's no big.
Writing a story for an anthology is not a guarantee that the people putting out the call will actually want it. Maybe I'll send it in and the editor will say "Yes! We love it!" Or they could just as easily say "No thanks." That's a bit of a bummer, but at the end of the day, I still have a complete work of writing that can be used in a variety of other ways. Maybe I'll publish it as a serial in my newsletter. Or maybe I'll expanded upon it, get it edited, buy a pre-made cover, and self-publish it like I did with Remembering a Witch.
With number four on my list, people might ask why I don't just approach writing prompts with the same mentality. The truth is, I still think I need the drive of those first three items for me to be willing to break away from my larger projects. I also want to add that I have nothing against other people who use writing prompts. If that works for you then I'm glad!
But if you're like me, and you tense up at someone making a suggestion about what you should write, then I urge you reconsider in the case of themed anthologies. You may end up with a beautiful short story!