Up to this point in my writing career (such as it is), I’ve only written short fiction. Why?
First, and probably the primary reason, is the traditional advice that writers should start with short stories before they write novels. Whether this holds as true today as it once did, I’m not sure.
Second, I’ve never had an idea that I considered good enough for a novel. Then again, my ideas tend to be puzzle pieces — they never make a picture on their own, but must be joined with other pieces. Perhaps if I took one of my puzzle pieces and took the time to hunt down its friends, I’d prove to myself that I am capable of coming up with novel ideas.
Third, there’s the issue of time. I’ve mentioned that I still work a full-time job, which leaves me little time to write. Short stories are, well, short. A shorter, less costly investment.
But now I find myself questioning my path. I did a Google search on the topic to see what others had to say, and this led to more questions. Should I stick with the short stuff until I feel like I’m ready? Is the traditional way still the best way? Or should I try something new? Would breaking tradition unlock my potential and my future?
Hell if I know. Let’s list this out.
Why should I write novels instead of short stories?
My stories tend to go on long. Perhaps their core ideas aren’t enough for novels, but I think the way I write is reminiscent of long form.
I think I may have more of a natural instinct for longer work. I have no actual evidence of this. Just a feeling.
It is my final goal. Short stories are fun and all, but it’s always been about eventually working my way up to novels. Why delay the inevitable?
It is what I prefer to read. Ironic, perhaps, considering how I complain about lacking time, but I’ve always preferred having time to invest emotion in the fiction I consume. I like television series over movies, for instance. I prefer novels to short stories, though not necessarily a series to standalone novels. That’s a topic for another day.
Short fiction and long fiction are different markets, and they involve different skills. Working on short stories will not necessarily make my future novels better.
Why should I write short stories instead of novels?
Short and long fiction may not share all the same skills, but there is some overlap. I still need to break off the rust from the writer’s block, so short form may be good for practice.
Writing short fiction may make it easier to build readership. As I’ve only been published a few times (two of those only being the flashiest of flash fiction), I’m still an unknown. Especially since I’m thinking of switching the name I write under. I need readers who know me.
Short fiction allows for more experimental stuff. I may not be a groundbreaking pioneer, or some kind of writing rebel, but the flexibility does appeal to me in case I need it.
As I already mentioned, time. It always comes down to time with me. Time and money (but money is not part of this discussion).
So, I still have no answer. For now, as I have this story I’m editing, I suppose I’ll stick with the status quo.
But in the future? Who knows? Maybe I can do both at the same time. I’ve never worked on multiple projects. Perhaps it would be enough to challenge me.
*flops bonelessly onto the bed, preferring sleep to writing a post, but damn it, he has an obligation to his legions*
I have a very full week at my job. My hours can be pretty funky, too, so this doesn’t leave me a lot of free time, at least not evenly distributed across the week. Two hours here, ten hours there, and obviously not all of that is used for writing. Not seeing anything close to a good stretch of time until Thursday afternoon.
And no, I’m not writing this post to complain about my schedule. I’m being thoughtful here, you cretins. *sips his tea and adjusts his monocle*
Time is one of my obsessions. I covet it. Some might say I am stingy about sharing it, and they would be right. Now that I am being creative again, I monitor my time spent even more closely (though I’m slipping a bit by playing more games than I should).
I go to Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and I wonder how other authors and creative types seem to have so much time to devote to them. If I dutifully read every tweet, status, and post, and also tried to interact with them in some meaningful way with comments and whatnot, I’d have no time for anything else. I want to have as much time as they do! And I’ll do anything to get it. I mean, within reason.
*hides his laser revolver and his notebook, which is labeled “Time Robbing Plans”, under the bed before any of you notice*
Then it occurred to me: wait a minute, self, these people can be creative and social because it is their full-time jobs to do so! They don’t get up before the sun (what a lazy piece of crap, getting up to shine only when it feels like it) and work a full day, sometimes before most people even think about whether to have the wrap or the burger for lunch and decide instead on the tuna salad pizza. So don’t be so hard on yourself, self, if your social networking efforts seem paltry by comparison. You’re still an okay guy! Just very busy.
Maybe if I can make a living on my writing, I can be a better networker. If I become a better networker, maybe I can make a living on my writing. *follows some footprints, not yet realizing they are going in a circle*
Anyway, that’s it. Not the most interesting post, maybe, but I don’t have the time or energy for more this time. Maybe next time I’ll come up with something ahead of time instead of waiting until the last minute.
Ass bitch damn.
These are probably the only “no no words” I’ve used on this blog. Network-TV-grade stuff. I did say “piston licking” recently, but that was just suggestive, not bad. I’m a little less inhibited in actual speech, but not by much, and only when alone or in preferred company.
My fiction is as squeaky clean as my blog. Why? It’s not children’s or YA fiction. At least not yet. Why do I censor myself?
Believe it or not, but I care about what people think of me. Perhaps I fear being looked down on for using crude language. Then again, when I think about the kind of stuff I’ll probably end up writing, I don’t think my potential readers will be uptight about that sort of thing.
I mean, what’s the worst that can happen? This, maybe?
A reader wanders the aisles of a bookstore. He finds my book, or a magazine with one of my stories. Flipping through it, he is horrified at the presence of four-letter words (literal and metaphorical). “What kind of author is this?” he demands of the heavens. “Some kind of barbarian, I say. I will have no part of it!” And so, he goes to the nearest garbage can and throws the book/magazine away, despite not having actually bought it, then storms out of the bookstore. He vows never to read another book ever again.
But the tale doesn’t end there, oh no. Without the magic of reading to soothe his savage desires, he turns to a life of crime. His capers get more elaborate and dastardly, culminating in his magnum opus: stealing the beard from Abe Lincoln’s face on Mt. Rushmore. The son of a bitch. But who is worse? Him, or me, the one who set him on this path of chaos?
Hey, it could happen.
I doubt my public word choice will change anytime soon, and that’s fine. Not really what I’m about. Why force it?
In fiction, though, perhaps I need to open myself up to the option of using the bad naughty words. Every word has potential. If it serves the story, isn’t that what really matters? Heck, I can at least toss them in my first drafts and see what floats.
My latest story began with an image. There I was, minding my own business while drinking some water, when BAM. The image entered my brain, then exploded like a Big Bang into an actual idea. I think the water may have been drugged.
I began the mad scramble to write down as many notes about this new idea as I could, and soon had jotted down a theme for the story. It was a theme that resonated with me, based upon personal experience and attitudes. It seemed obvious that it should go with the story.
The image and theme did not survive the first draft. However, they took the longest to die.
I hesitated to remove the image because I liked it so much, and I felt a certain loyalty to it for bringing the story to me. I suppose it could return in another story someday. If not, it’s okay. It did its job. I can let it go. That reminds me….
*Gets into a car with the image, drives it out to the woods, leaves it there, and drives home, sobbing as he watches the image shrink in the rearview mirror* I’ll never forget you, water-based hallucination!
And then there was the theme. It was made of tougher stuff. Scales like titanium. Quick enough to dodge my bullets. Too smart for the traps. Politely refused my eviction notice.
So how to kill something that does not want to die? Hand-to-claw combat. What weapons did I have? Machete, or maybe spiked knuckles? A lead pipe? Those little umbrellas they put in fancy drinks? Whatever it took. I had a space for a trophy on the wall, and I was going to fill it with a singing bass. Oh, the theme? That just goes in the garbage. Dude, it’s not real, how could I put it on the wall?
Like I said, this theme is strong in my life. At the same time, in this story, it required too much passivity from the characters. Or perhaps I’m not a strong enough writer yet to make it work. I prefer to believe the former.
I think I have to find a balance with theme. It needs to be something I’m interested in writing about, but not something I’m too passionate about. Otherwise, I focus too much on my feelings and experience, even if it does not suit the story.
This brings me to a philosophical quandary: why am I writing? Am I writing to dig deep into the gooey bits of my soul and fling the contents at people? Or am I writing to escape myself and my feelings, looking for both a more ideal world to live in and some entertainment for myself and my readers?
Heck, I don’t know. Maybe either at different times. Maybe both at once. I’ll figure it out eventually.
Lesson learned? Story can evolve into something different from the plan. Sometimes, you have to let it. Unless it’s Magikarp. Keep that thing from evolving. Gyarados is overrated.