Today I read 4 short stories that I haven’t worked on since the end of 2014/January 2015. I did it peering through my fingers, as one might do when watching a horror movie, expecting absolute carnage.
I was pleasantly surprised.
It wasn’t so bad!
I am now feeling re-energised and excited to resume work on my short story collection along with the novel I am slowly writing.
I’m glad those stories didn’t end up in computer’s recycling bin.
The point of this post is to show that nothing is wasted. There is merit in all work.
I was looking for some short story writing advice when I came across a quote from John Steinbeck:
“I have written a great many stories and I still don’t know how to go about it except to write it and take my chances.”
It struck me how true this is. No more searching for magic formulas. The key is to just do it.
You can see the rest of the article here.
I’ve read articles and letter pages before, in which the question – Where do you get your ideas from? – is asked to a published writer. It’s as if people expect that they are able to pluck them from an ideas tree or an idea for a story will drop out of the sky and land at their feet. The truth is, ideas are everywhere. I don’t particularly like my job most days but I have found that working in a busy office with a variety of people provides ideas and inspiration for short stories. Rather than grumbling inwardly about the daily commute, the mind-numbing boredom I feel at doing tedious tasks, the idiotic office politics and wishing that I was at home writing (ok, I still do that), I take the chance to observe whenever I can. Throughout my time in this job, I have come across people with big personalities. I have heard some stories that are stranger than fiction too and yes, I have used this as inspiration. I always take care to change names and situations to protect the guilty.
So, where do you get your ideas from?
A leaflet fell out of my magazine for The Bridport Prize. Could it be a sign? I’m taking it as one! Where is the harm in entering this competition? There’s none at all. I am a fledgling writer and I know the odds of me winning are slim but not as slim as if I don’t enter at all – and herein lies the challenge.
For short stories, the required word count is 5000 words. At the rate I write, I would struggle to write a new story in 27 days. Oh yes, I forgot to say, the deadline is 31 May.
So, the plan is to use a short story I have already written. I have the ideal story in mind. As I write this, the aforementioned story only contains 1500 words so I have to fatten this bird up. 27 days to write an additional 3500 words. Eek!
Not to worry, I’m relishing the challenge. I may not win but I’m going to have fun trying. If nothing else, it will give me practice in discipline and working to a deadline. Perhaps this is just the boost I needed.
Self-imposed deadline coming up next month for the completion of my first short story compilation. Watch this space!
I have just read through my blog to date and I’m heartened by my enthusiasm throughout. It’s a good reminder of my past plans and a boost towards my goal. I still stand by my original definition of success:
Someone is reading my blog = a start.
Someone is reading my work = vaguely successful.
Someone has paid for my work = moderately successful.
I am earning enough to write for a living = SUCCESSFUL!
My blog now has some followers so I have achieved my starting point. Tick!
Now to tick the other 3 items on my list.
I can’t help feeling that my original plan was slightly flawed. I had initially stated that I would give away my early writing for free but I have changed my mind. What if I was to charge a small amount? I’m aware that my early writings may not be up to professional standards but if I charge less than £1 for 5 short stories, if people don’t like them then they haven’t wasted much money or time. I like to think of it as the writer’s equivalent of busking. Someone buying a few short stories from me for a few pence is just like chucking coins into a busker’s guitar case. They won’t miss the money but may appreciate a bit of art.
The most important part of that idea is: if even one person buys my book, I have achieved steps 2 and 3 of my goal simultaneously.
Watch this space!