My apologies for not posting much this week. One reason for my absence is I'm on vacation and have been busy doing cheesy tourist things.
It's been great!
The other reason I haven't blogged as much lately isn't new, I've been writing more and have been finding that all my stories take about four times longer to complete than I think they will.
A couple of people have asked me what I've been up to, so I thought I'd turn my answer into a blog post.
My Plan For Writerly Success
That's right, I have a plan! It's similar to Robert Heinlein's. Here it is:
Writers often have a daily goal--they want to write X number of words--but I find I work better if I have a weekly goal. I write short, so my rewriting mostly consists of filling in scenes. That means I'll write a variable amount each day but a (more or less) consistent amount each week.
Also, rather than concentrate on the number of words I write a day I concentrate on the number of words I publish a month.
Write in many genres
Some writers have written in many genres and they know, not only what they like to write, but what they are best at writing.
I'm not one of those people, not yet, so I've set out to write a few stories in each major genre. At least, each major genre I like to either read or watch. Surprisingly, I've found writing horror stories rather fun.
Write stories of different lengths
I've been writing stories of all lengths: flash fiction, short stories, novellas and novels.
I know that there has been a lot of talk about what size story is the most lucrative--short story, novella or novel--and I think the verdict is in: the novel. (Though I tend to think that if several novellas, if they were in a series, were bundled together, that could sell just as well.)
Still, since I'm exploring a number of genres, it's much more sensible for me to write short stories than novels!
b) Finish what I write.
It is good advice to finish what you start but I think it's better to lay a story aside than force an artificial finish if you're stuck.
The best writers in the world have gotten stuck in the middle of a story. You know what this is like, right? You have a great idea for a story, you're writing gangbusters and then, after a certain point, nothing. It's like staring off the end of the world.
I've had stories like that--not many, but a few--and rather than forcing a finish, I put them aside. It has taken me years to finish some of those stories but, now, I'm picking them back up and completing them. And it feels fantastic!
So, yes, finish what you write but don't force it. Don't fear putting a story aside but, after you've consigned it to it's shoe box, do shift your focus and write something else.
One of the benefits of either doing an outline or writing the first draft sparely and quickly is that one knows, in broad strokes, what happens. It doesn't matter if there are gaps, you can go back and fill those in later.
But everyone's different. That's what I've been finding works for me.
c) Determine which stories are the most popular with readers
Here's my criteria for what's popular: downloads. Not reviews.
Focus on readers, not writers
I'm interested in which stories are popular with readers, not writers. Yes, I love knowing what my friends and acquaintances think of my work, but many writers read like editors. That is, their literary taste is more like the average editor than the average reader. That's fine if one is submitting to editors or agents but not if one is putting ones work directly in front of readers.
d) No matter what, keep writing and publishing and learning.
Never give up, no matter what
You will fail occasionally. As Seth Godin says, if you don't fail occasionally, you're not trying. The key is not to give up. After all, the only way to get better is to continue putting yourself out there, continue getting feedback.
Comedians and risking failure
I love reading articles by comedians. Writers have it easy, we can work out our new material in the privacy of our offices. Comedians have it tough, they work out their new material in front of strangers and routinely get either ignored or heckled. But they keep doing it, they keep building up material.
Here are two articles I can recommend. The first is a 2012 interview Esquire did with Bill Murray. At one point Bill Murray says:
"You gotta commit. ... You're goin' out there with just a whisper of an idea. The fear will make you clench up. That's the fear of dying. When you start and the first few lines don't grab and people are going like, "What's this? I'm not laughing and I'm not interested," then you just put your arms out like this and open way up and that allows your stuff to go out. Otherwise it's just stuck inside you."It's important for writers to open up to failure as well. Of course we don't have to write in front of a live audience, we can write in the privacy of our office and publish it on a smaller site or hand it out to beta readers. The important thing is that we don't stop trying when we fall on our face.
The other article is by Paton Oswalt: A Closed Letter To Myself About Thievery, Heckling And Rape Jokes. PO's overall goal in the article is to talk about whether there are any subjects that are out of bounds, whether there are kinds of jokes that should never be told. It's a wonderful, thoughtful, article. Why I'm mentioning it here, though, is because he talks about what it was like for him as a young comedian, what it takes to make it in that business. Worth the read.
Okay! That's it for me today. Back to writing. I'll talk to you again tomorrow. :-)
Photo credit: "exposed" by Robert Couse-Baker under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.