Short Stories Don’t Count

But have you written a novel yet?

I got asked that question often when I was writing short stories. What is it about novels that people assume every writer wants to write them? Is there a certain prestige for the writer who can add “novelist” to their CV?  Forget the fact that short stories are challenging to write, keeping the word count to a minimum, writing tight prose, finding the perfect flow, most people seemed only to care if I’d written a novel. Some how the 40+ short stories I’d managed to get published did little to impress some. (Not that I was looking to impress. I was just looking toward that next submission, that next chance to see my words in print.) Truthfully, I knew my stories would be read by a few as literary magazines are pretty much available only through submission, and circulation numbers tend to be low. Still, that didn’t matter. Someone, someone who knew something about publishing, wanted to publish what I’d written. Yippee!

What is it about writing that causes some people to ask  such a question? Would they look at a potholder someone sewed and asked, “But have you made a quilt?” A pair of knitted mittens and ask, “Have you knitted an afghan?” Does this mean the short story is looked at as something less, as if the writer isn’t good enough to write a full-length novel? Maybe I’m just sensitive.

Perhaps in some people’s books (pardon the pun) real writing comes in a book bound with your name and your name only, the rest of it doesn’t really count.

Well, I’m here to say that writing short stories is REAL writing. Writing is writing, simple and true, and has little to do with the length of a story. The story is what counts. Some stories are short while others have longer, more intricate plotlines.

I happen to consider myself lucky. I have many wonderfully supportive friends and family who would cheer me on if I had a paragraph published. Seriously. They’re really the best.  They help keep me going those times when I feel like forgetting about it all.

I know it is a goal for many writers to craft a novel. It’s an admirable goal. There is nothing wrong with it. In fact, it’s right, more than right. Why not? Heck, having an entire book with your name on is nothing less than sweet. But while it’s nothing less than sweet, it’s not the goal of every writer out there nor should we assume it is.

 Here’s another thought as well, once you’ve had enough short stories published, a publisher somewhere may be interested in publishing your work in a collection with YOUR name on it! Now there’s an admirable goal as well. 🙂

What are your goals, writing or otherwise?

Self-Sabotage—Three Ways to Make Sure You’ll Never be Published

Self-Sabotage anyone? For your convenience, I’ve put together a list of three things you’ll need to get started on your journey to non-publication.

Right about now I can hear a collective, “What the heck is she talking about—-self-sabotage?” Pffff!

I know, I know, you’d all give up your first born to be published, right? Well maybe not THAT extreme, but I’m willing to bet that at least once or twice you turned your head toward the stars, shook a clenched fist and vowed to do whatever it takes to see your words in print.  I’m also willing to bet you meant it, too.  So why aren’t you published then? I mean if you were willing to do whatever, it should be in the bag by now shouldn’t it?

You’re positive you’ve got talent. Our almost sure. Your fifth grade teacher even wrote it on your report card. You’ve read every best seller ever written and determined that you could do a better job. Heck, your grocery list is more interesting than last year’s Giller Prize winner. You’ve got creativity oozing out of your ears. Your mind is brimming with thoughts so unique and spectacular that your head can scarcely contain it all. Not only that, you bought every writing book known to humankind.  In fact, if you laid those books out end to end you could go around the earth two time with some to spare. You stalk every agent blog in the blogosphere. You’re doing everything just right.

So what’s really holding you back?  Why hasn’t your dream come true?

Poor, poor dreams. We use you, abuse you and toss you to the wayside. And then to add insult to injury we tell everyone within earshot that dreams make us who we are. We even look up inspirational quotes about dreams to prove we mean business and post them in our facebook status or on our blogs.

Now I know that for every dream that we leave in our wake there could be any number of reasons why we abandon them. No doubt if I wanted to, I could make this post go on and on. But I’ll spare you the torture and I’ll name three ways to ensure you’ll never be published. Now listen up. This could come in handy.

1. Practise the art of procrastination. Make it your business to learn all the ins and outs of procrastinating. Milk it for all it’s worth. Procrastination doesn’t tax the body or brain, and much like meditation you’ll find it relaxing, a breath of fresh air. There’s plenty out there to keep you from starting that best seller that’s been bugging the heck out of you since you were in high school. You know that story, the one that just doesn’t want to go away. It’ll get you a million dollar publishing contract as soon as you write, “the end.” Remember while you’re lolling away knee deep in procrastination not to forget that special promise you made to yourself one night after you had one too many beers because in your heart of hearts you just know that everything happens in divine order. A sign will arrive and you’ll know it when you see it. The morning you wake up and your horoscope tells you it’s time to start writing your novel you’ll be the first one out of the gate. But not until the time is right, right? We all have to stick to what we believe in even the staunchest procrastinator among us. The Universe will speak to us in its good old time. No need to worry or hurry. Relax and enjoy the ride. The Universe will provide.

2. Spend a wicked sweet amount of time blogging, surfing the net, tweeting, commenting on other blogs, facebooking and checking email not to mention blogging, surfing the net, tweeting, commenting on other blogs, facebooking and checking email. I did write that twice because you all know the truth when you read it. There’s nothing like good old social media to keep a good writer from becoming published. Write? Who’s got time to write? The next best thing to being published is reading about it on someone else’s blog. You never know, their success might just rub off on you if you hang around enough. There’s plenty more uses for a computer other than writing so you should be safe. And if all this isn’t enough to keep you from plotting your novel just let me say…Pinterest. Find out what’s cool and popular on Pinterest. After all, it could be something you pinned. If that photo you posted of a blade of Kentucky Bluegrass gets repined 52,643 times you need to know immediately. What better way to ensure you never get published then never starting that book you’re writing?

3. Embrace your inner critic. Take her to lunch, throw her a special party. Bring balloons. Not only that become best buddies. The moment you’re sure that the crap you’re writing is never going to be publishable, your inner critic will be right there to agree. Nothing like a good inner critic to knock some sense into you, I say. After all, in every friendship someone needs to be the strong voice of reason.  Not sure if your writing stinks? Your new best buddy will confirm this beyond a shadow of a doubt cause that’s just the way she rolls. You’ve all heard about “kicking yourself when you’re down.” Well, who better to give you an extra little boot than your inner critic? Why waste the effort on yourself? Just stand back and let your inner critic take aim. She’s your BFF. She’s known you most of your life. Admit it, she’s sure better at kicking then you are at writing.

So there you have it three, count them three, ways to ensure you never get published. Follow them to the letter and I’m almost positive that you can kiss that long held dream of publication goodbye.  I mean who need dreams? Don’t thank me now you can do that twenty years down the road when you’re waiting for the planets to align, while listening to your BFF tell you one more time that your writing truly sucks big time. Not to worry though, you can always turn to the internet to whine and complain about those dreams that slipped through your fingers during your youth. It’s never too late to finally give up on your dream.

So here are three things that have worked for me in the past. You might not want to try them all out at once. Maybe you should just ease your way into it and before you know it, you can be playing an active role on your journey to non-publication.

Have you discovered any special ways to ensure you’ll never be published? If you’d like to tell, I’d like to know.

Creepy Messages From Blogland

Every so often I get an email that says, “Someone is now following, Laura Best, author.”

Sounds a bit creepy, right? Someone is following you..

I mean, should I be checking over my shoulder? You know, just in case some weird little guy with big eyes, stringy hair, and bad oral health is after me?

Na, afraid not,there’s nothing sinister or vile about these emails. In fact, it’s all good. WordPress so kindly lets their bloggers know who out there in blogland is following their blog. But what if the person following your blog isn’t a blogger themselves or a wordpress blogger for that matter? Since WordPress doesn’t know you, the email sent simply states— “someone.” So take heart, if you’re not a wordpress blogger you’re still someone. If you’re someone following my blog, then I happen to think you’re an extra special someone. So take a bow or maybe even do a little dance to celebrate your specialness.

I’ve got to give credit to all my non-blogging friends who drop in to read my posts. You’re all pretty special and I appreciate your visits. Although I don’t publish every post I write to Facebook, I can pretty much count on the fact that if I do, many of you come on by to read what I’ve got to say. Just so ya know this writer/blogger appreciates those visits.

I’m always astounded when my non-blogging buddies get up the courage to leave a comment, especially that first time. I try and put myself in your place, wondering if I would be so brave. Of course to do so, I’d have to get in my time machine, and go back in time before I ever had a blog of my own, back when a blog was this mysterious and scary thing that I would never dream of commenting on.

Maybe that doesn’t sound like such a big deal to all the bloggers out there, but I know it takes courage to post a comment, at least for the first time. It can be just as scary as hitting “publish” on your very first blog post.

Quite a few of my non-blogging friends have subscribed to my blog, which simply means they receive an email every time I update. Since I added that little feature to the sidebar of my blog a decent number of you have signed up, and I just want to say thanks. I really do appreciate the support. I sometimes think that those of us in the blogging community forget about all the non-bloggers out there who stop by our blogs. Don’t worry, we all appreciate the support we receive. To us you’re all “someone,” regardless of those creepy little emails informing us that we’re being followed.

* Oh, and by the way, that creepy little picture of Gollum was sketched by my son, Matt, back when he was in high school. I wanted to add a caption below the picture but wordpress kept saying no. Anyway, I think it was the first sketch he ever drew. Pretty darn good I’d say. Wouldn’t you?

I Didn’t Get Angry, I Got Determined

It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.
Theodore Roosevelt

I like this quote because there is so much truth in it. Many of us stop ourselves from even trying simply because we allow fear to stop us from pursuing our dreams. Some of us were even taught that dreams were unnecessary, frivolous, even. We were told to stop daydreaming, or else told that such and such was just a pipedream, as if the very act of dreaming was something to be ashamed of.

How can we possibly walk this planet without dreaming of the future? Is it even possible to go though our days without wishing, hoping or dreaming of something, anything?

When I first started writing seriously, I was afraid to even tell others that my dream was to be published. Would they think it was simply a waste of my time? Was I working toward some unattainable goal? Did I have what it took to write something that someone else would even want to publish?

From early on, I had a clear image of the kind of person who wrote books.
In my mind, a writer was highly educated, someone who had experienced many things in their lives, and had probably travelled extensively. I was a stay at home mom with a high school education. I didn’t fall into any of those other categories. So how could I even whisper my dream aloud? A few family members knew I was “trying” to write, and they probably felt a bit sorry for me(not that they’d ever say.) More than likely they thought it was a passing fancy; something that I would grow tired of eventually, and come back to reality.

But I didn’t come back to reality. I wrote and submitted my work to literary magazines and collected an armful of rejections in secret. I suffered through frustration each time I opened the mailbox and saw another envelope staring me in the face. I felt self-conscious in the beginning, wishing those manila envelopes didn’t have to come through the postal service. What if someone who knew me saw them and figured out my secret? I live in a pretty small community.

Still, I didn’t let it stop me. Oh there were days when I’d declare I was giving up, convinced that my work would never see print, but again I’d pick myself up as each time something compelled me to keep going.

Maybe I’m just stubborn (I’ve always preferred the word determination, myself.) Maybe, more than anything else, a writer needs determination if they wish to see their work published.

Even with determination you probably won’t get things right in the very beginning because all the determination will not make some publisher want to publish your work if it isn’t ready. What determination will do, though, is keep you writing until your work is ready. And once it is ready, that same determination will keep you submitting again and again. Of course you’ll struggle to find your own unique voice. Of course you’ll beat yourself up inside when it seems as though failure is staring you in the face yet again. Of course, self doubt will look over your shoulder all the while you work.

But wouldn’t you rather have all that, wouldn’t you rather not accomplish what you set out to do, wouldn’t you rather change your dream, than to never even try?

Little Stinker

Okay I’ll admit it— I’ve been slack this past week. My WIP has not been worked on at all. It is true, I did put up a blog post but it takes little effort to hit publish once the post is waiting and ready to go. I did manage to reply to comments that came in, but I have a lot of blog reading to catch up on. I’ll try to be a better blogger. 🙂

There’s usually a reason for everything and here’s mine.

We had a visitor this week, and well I was kept kind of busy. Here’s Miss Charlotte’s 11 month picture taken a few hours before she left for home. Yup, that’s right, the little stinker is almost a year old. How the time flies.

Now she’s back home safe and sound. By the sounds of the gurgling I heard on the other end of the phone she’s probably thinking there’s no place like home..

Thanks for visiting, Miss Charlotte.

Can You Love It and Still Find Flaws?

Reading over the comments from my last post, I started to wonder if it is possible to want both validation for our work as well as suggestions of ways to make it better?

I know when I first start working on a story I love it. I mean, you’ve got, right? Or why bother writing it in the first place? But to tell the truth once I’ve worked on it for so long, rewriting, revising and tweaking it’s darn near impossible to be objective. I get to a place where I don’t know if what I’ve written is any good —as in someone wanting to invest their time reading it.

My thinking is this, it would be nice to have someone tell me if the characters pulled them in, if it was a pager-turner, etc. etc, but of course only if it was. But at the same time I’d also want someone to point out any flaws. Hmm I suppose that would be called a critique, right?

This brings me to this question: Can you honestly like a story yet see ways that it could be improved? Or does it mean the book/the story isn’t any good if it has a number of flaws?

I’m thinking about the editing involved once an editor gets hold of your manuscript. They make suggestions, point out flaws and yet they still made the decision to publish your story. But how can that be if they still want you to make changes? I mean they want to publish it. Doesn’t that mean it’s already perfect?

One author told me her editor changed three words in her manuscript. I say wow! I don’t expect that will ever be my experience. Bitter, Sweet had 5,000 words added to it, extra scenes, a shift in one chapter from third person into first person plus some tweaking I did along the way. I worked with the suggestions my editor made and the story ended up much stronger because of it. I’ve read what other writers have said about the editing process for their books and it sounds quite similar to mine.

Right now I’m reading a book that took me a little while to get into it, but now that I am I would describe it as a good book. I like the main character and I’m enjoying the plot and I hope things work out for him. The thing is, as I’m reading this particular story I find myself being critical. Too much of this and a little too much of that. I’m not quite convinced that some of the character’s actions ring true for me. I find myself questioning it. It’s not a matter of not liking the character’s behaviour so much as it is a matter of believing their behaviour.

Yet I still call it a good book and it is truly worthy of publication. Perhaps other people would read the book and not notice what seems obvious to me. We all have different experiences with the same book and even interpret it in different ways. Or maybe I’m just cranky and looking for something to complain about. I’ve read this author’s work before and really liked it. Perhaps I’m super sensitive since I’m doing the same thing with my manuscript at the moment.

So in your opinion, is it possible for a story to be both good and flawed at the same time? And if a story is both good and flawed how much tweaking and polishing is really required considering the fact that an editor is going to want to make changes once the manuscript is going through edits?

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