Friday, October 20, 2017

What I'm Learning Writing Short Stories

I'm writing a short story every two days for the next month or so. Who knows? I might just keep up the habit once my #60DayChallenge is over. I'm also learning a ton along the way.

Quite a few things my brain hasn't even processed yet, I'm sure.

But one thing that pops to mind - after finishing 20 stories since the middle of September - the (good) pressure to finish a project every two days helps me 'forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead.' (Extra credit if you know what chapter and verse that's from.) In other words, there is always another story to write. One down, another to go. Then another. And then another.

This leads to two conclusions I've stumbled upon...
A) I won't run out of ideas (or exhaust my creativity).
And B) I won't devalue what I've already written by adding more stories to my personal opus.

Those two thoughts, in the negative, are actually two myths I've been busting with all this writing lately. Here they are in two simple statements often taken as posits: ideas are precious; my stories are precious.

First, let me address the myth that ideas are precious. Look, truth is ideas are a dime a dozen. There are no original plots or ideas or concepts. (Okay, maybe some really really creative takes on various themes can count as 'original,' but you get what I'm saying.) Someone has done what I think is so neat and precious - and original - before and did a lot better job at it than I could ever hope to.

Since that's the truth, I can lay to rest the myth that I only have a few good ideas so I better not squader them unless I have a perfect story, a perfect voice, a perfect POV, etc. See where that leads? If ideas are like gold nuggets, then I better hoard the few I have. And that leads to paralysis.

But if ideas are a dime a dozen (and they are), then shoot, whip 'em out as fast as you can and put a story to them. What makes the difference between two stories with the same idea is the telling of the story. Duh. My goal, then, is to just get better at telling stories.

Which leads to busting myth number 2 - the stories I've written are precious. That's a lie. Most are pretty bad and not at all worth hanging around for a hundred years. They ain't classics and they ain't gonna be. So adding more stories to my catalogue will not devalue them in any way. They're already cheap entertainment. Which is what I enjoy writing and reading.

See, I'm the kind of writer who likes everything he writes. (I'm a guy, thus the maculine pronoun. ;) I know some writers who are insecure about their it any good, does it pass muster? Heck, that's not me. I think everything I write is beautiful, perfect, and entertaining. I even cry at what I write. And I make my wife cry too, but that's a bit different than what I mean here.

Now I'm a realist. I know not everyone will think that way about my stories, but that's their loss. For me, though, I get a kick out of what I write, especially when I re-read them. And I re-read my stories a lot. I laugh at my own jokes and cry even before I get to the sad part.

But the danger in this is that I can very quickly wander into the territory of thinking that my stories are 'precious.' There's a difference. See it? I think my stories are great. But they are not precious commodoties to be guarded like Gollum's ring. Thinking so leads to paralysis.

This happens to quite a few writers, I imagine. They publish a book or two and wonder why they are not selling. So they edit it some more, put new covers on them, buy Facebook ads... Dang, people, write another book. That first one stunk anyway. Mine do too. Write more so you find people like yourself who think everything you write is great. They're out there, I'm sure.

So finishing a project every two days has tremendous benefit. It's helped my thinking, and of course, I believe it's helped my writing. I practice POV, I test word order and phrases, I figure out pacing, I experiment. Fun stuff.

And I've learned it's easier than writing a story a week. Really. If I had a week to write a story, I'd never get it done. I procrastinate and then get all wiggy. But if I'm writing like a leaky faucet, always adding words during my free time (which means I've cut TV from my diet as well as scrolling FB and gaming too), then a story every couple of days is quite do-able and exciting. I like the thrill of accomplishment.

So when I finish that one story and glory in it for an hour or so, re-reading it, laughing and crying (some times at the same time!), and congratulating myself on finishing the best story every told, I eventually remind myself that another story is due in two days. It's becoming a habit. A good one.

Remember, there's always another story to write.