A story! A story? A tale of fear!

All my sources tell me that, as a new indie author, I need to publish more work soon. Writing a novel is not quick work for me. I have a story that might run novella length—might. I haven’t written it yet, of course. Another option is a short story collection.

Until the last couple of years, I’ve never been a big short story reader. I’ve written some, but they were for my own eyes. But, in the last year, I’ve greatly increased the number of short stories I read. I also read articles on how to write short fiction. I’m still not sure I get it.

I’m also not sure why I don’t get it. It’s almost as though I have a mental block. I think I write a beginning, middle, and end, but it doesn’t seem like a story to me. Is it a vignette? Is that a story?

Does a story require a moral? A lesson? A reason to exist? Am I over-thinking this? Probably. I fear I can’t write short stories. Then again, I fear I can’t write anything. FEAR.

I’d like to say I bravely take up my pen keyboard and wield it like a sword, but that would be a lie. The truth is I sit here quivering. I sit here wishing, hoping, praying that the words I’m typing make sense … have a purpose … tell a story.

That’s what I’m busy with nowadays. And I thank Christ Craig for her recent post reminding me that I have to face that fear or I’ll never know if I’ve written a story at all.

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27 thoughts on “A story! A story? A tale of fear!

    1. Well, John, not only to stay in the public eye, but to have a back catalog so when someone reads one of your books and likes it, they can immediately read another. If they like two or three or more of your books, you’ve probably gained a fan for life. I am not a quick writer, and if I had thought this thing through, I wouldn’t have published until I had two or three or more books ready to go.

      No, I haven’t read the book you cited, but I too appreciate the short form for the reason you stated. Time is severely crunched now, so if I read a story or two a week, I feel like I’m accomplishing something.

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  1. Short stories mean different things to different people. There are so many different styles! For a long time, I didn’t *get* them either, though I like to think that I do now. I think reading a lot of other short stories helps, if you can find a collection that really speaks to you and pull it apart to find out what makes it work, it will help you crack it. For me, this was Greg Egan’s Axiomatic. Good on you for giving it a go, they scared the hell out of me but once I got more confident, I fell in love. There will always be a place for short stories in my life now 🙂 Hope you find the love, too!

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  2. The word “soon” is probably one of the reasons for all the fear and angst out there. Why soon? A novel takes several years from the first thoughts to its completion, a good novel that is. Short stories, good ones, take quite some time, too. And in order to gain an audience with short stories, you have to write quite a few of them.

    My first novel took me 5 years all in all, from the beginning to its publication. The second one, which is quite a bit shorter, took about one year–but only because I had a rough manuscript to work from, which also took a few years.

    Every once in a while, you produce good work within a short time, but that’s rare. So, I think we should forget about the “soon” and just write as long as it takes.

    BUT I’m going to lose all those readers I have been cultivating. They are going to switch to other authors. I’ll be forgotten.

    No way, not someone who writes such a great novel as The Brevity! Keep in touch by writing a blog post here and there, perhaps put a poem on your blog, some great pictures, a joke. Twitter, FB. Share part of a WIP. You’re doing all this?

    So what are your worried about? LOL. All this wonderful advice I’m giving you is also meant for me!
    Christa

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    1. I wish I had your confidence, Christa. I feel extremely pressured to get the next book out. The gurus say that you can’t expect to make any money until you have 7-10 books published. In that case, I won’t ever enjoy a paying career because, at the rate I write a novel, I’ll be senile before I can write that many books. I guess I’ll have to settle for just entertaining a few fans.

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  3. If your in the group of writers that also has a day job, like me, writing takes awhile. If you feel you need to keep up your literary presence in between novels or novellas there are several things you could do. Post on a blog 4 times a week, write flash fiction for #fridayflash, submit short stories to anthologies or literary magazines, partisipate in #tuesdayserial and/or creat a twitter account for one of your characters. There are so many ways social media can boost you as a writer. Honestly, I wouldn’t fret to much about getting one done lickety-split. Writing does take some time.

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    1. Thank you for weighing in, Lara. I don’t have a day job … but writing a novel still takes me awhile. I do post on this blog three times a week, which is all I can handle … and more than my readers are interested in. 😉 I have to say Tweeting as one of my characters sounds like fun. Hmmm, which one? 🙂

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  4. I sit here wishing, hoping, praying that the words I’m typing make sense … have a purpose … tell a story. And by now, you’re experienced enough that you know if those first words you type don’t quite tell the story, the editing process will craft it into something you love. Have fun getting your hands dirty with the story/novella and letting it find its legs.

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    1. I do know that, Cathryn, and editing is my favorite part, but I always wonder if I’m wasting my time. Take the story I just finished, is it worth editing or would I just be putting lipstick on a pig?

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  5. I also loved Christi’s post, and agree that you just have to write and see what evolves. During the process you might even change directions/have an epiphany, and end up with a trilogy! 🙂

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  6. Oh, Linda, for heaven’s sake! You don’t have to conform to some outside definition of story! Have you read the classics? Have you read James Joyce? Faulkner? Woolf? You can write whatever you want – just make sure your confidence is 100% behind it. I wrote a little post about this on the Lit Lab the other day. http://literarylab.blogspot.com/2011/05/thinking-in-nonlinear-terms.html

    Go have a peek. 🙂

    Also, backlist is important, yes, but you also can’t force yourself to write faster than is comfortable. It’s different for everyone. Remember why you’re in this in the first place – because you love it, not because you’re a brand just out there to sell things. I haven’t even read Brevity yet, so I couldn’t go pick up another book of yours yet, anyway. I know I’m going to savor it when I do get to it! And I’ll gladly wait for the next. 🙂

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    1. Actually, no, Michelle. I confess my ignorance. Concerning most of the classics, I’ve either never read them or read them so long ago I’ve forgotten most of them. I made a vow once to read more classics, but contemporary kept me too occupied.

      As for non-linear terms, it seems odd to say, considering that I live in a fairly non-linear fashion, that I don’t think that way about writing. As much as I grouse about writing RULES, I’m apparently trussed up in them. I’m going to read the book you talked about. At least, I’ll try. 😉

      And I’ve done exactly what you said not to do — I’ve forgotten. I’ve stopped writing for the sheer love of writing. Not good. Not good at all.

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  7. Try not to worry too much about short stories and how to write them, they’re fun, once you relax about them, you’ll be fine. I love reading short stories, I grew up reading short story compilations from the horror masters like HP Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle, amonst others. (Yes, Doyle was great at horror as well as Sherlock Holmes)

    I do however, understand why you feel under pressure to be ‘out there’ publishing more work, it is why I simply cannot cope with the idea of indie publsihing, too much to do for just one person and I am struggling enough with ‘social media’ – Currently suffering from social media burnout, and I just cannot cope with any of it, and that’s why I’ve just stopped blogging, tweeting etc..

    Best of luck with whatever you decide to write next, just try not to lose your love for the writing, that is so important, if it becomes like a chore, then you need to stop and smell the roses 😉

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    1. Oh, I have fun writing them, Alannah, I just never know if they’re worth reading.

      I guess I don’t put enough effort into social media to get burned out, but thank you for taking the time to respond to my post. 🙂

      And thank you for the good wishes. I do believe I’ll have to throw out the “rush to write the next book” plan. If I don’t get “discovered” until I’m 90, so be it.

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  8. A lot of encouragement here in this thread, Linda. Do you know what comes to mind reading it? If you don’t enjoy writing it, chances are not many will enjoy reading it.
    You mention you stopped writing for love. I think that’s the place you need to go back to. The rest falls in place after thAt. No matter what you’re writing, if you love it, it will come out in your work. And that’s something work reading

    Jmho

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    1. I believe that’s true, Jennifer. If I don’t love it, neither will my readers. But I don’t think I could even write a whole novel if I wasn’t enjoying it. I’m thinking this over this weekend and will probably blog about it. Just as I did as a newbie writer, I just believed everything I read as a newbie publisher. It’s time to think for myself. I took a chance publishing non-genre fiction to begin with, so I think a lot of the genre rules won’t work for me.

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  9. Linda, Thanks for the mention. You know, Margaret Atwood says, “You need a certain amount of nerve to be a writer.” I couldn’t agree with her more. Every new venture (or genre) in which we dive into requires courage and risk-taking. I have to remember that all the time, especially when I get that creeping feeling of “am I wasting my time here?” Hate those days. But, I love the days when the words come together.

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    1. Oh, Christi, those “come together” days are the best!

      I’d like to think I’m courageous in writing, but I also read your quote in my negative voice — you’ve got a lot of nerve! Sometimes I think that … I have a lot of nerve to think anyone would want to read my stories. That’s why I only wrote for myself for so long. Then again, I didn’t really learn HOW to write until I decided to try for publication, so I’ll believe now that I’m writing courageously. 😉

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