Short Story Problems

I have a problem. See, I get this overwhelming amount of story ideas throughout the day and, unfortunately, night. Some of them are so awesome that they just rock my world. I’m convinced they are truly genius …

And then I start to write them. And I flounder. And I get tired. And never finish most of them.

I have notebooks full of great story ideas, pithy one-liners, and even half written stories. But, to be honest, most of them never see the light of day. They are kept in darkness, tucked safely away in my notebooks, never to have true life breathed into them. Many don’t even make it to my laptop. 

To be granted permission to live on my laptop is a true honor for these stories because it means that they actually have a chance. Stories never start out on my laptop, though. I don’t know what it is. I get seriously blocked when I look at a blank screen. Hand me a notebook with clean, lined pages and I’m Stephen King … okay, maybe not The King, but you get my point. 

I don’t know what it is that happens between “Once upon a time” and “The End” that kills some of these stories. Am I afraid of commitment? Good grief! It’s called a short story for a reason. Do I lose momentum? Suck it up and just finish the damn thing. Do I not get ahold of paper fast enough before the fire inside the story burns out? Who knows.

Last night I experienced thunder and lightning unlike anything I’ve experienced before; last night was special. I couldn’t sleep while the earth was trembling beneath me, of course, so my mind ran wild. And … voila! I got a story idea. 

So, after two lattes this morning I grabbed my notebook, plopped in the recliner, and spent over 3 hours writing my story–from beginning to end. This story didn’t plummet to its death over the side of a cliff. I handwrote all 36 pages in one sitting and it felt great! Well, except for my aching hand. 

After months of short story droppings (see reasons above combined with my being busy with the novel-whose-title-keeps-changing), my story is now basking in completeness. Enjoying just being in the moment. Brace yourself, Story, because you’ll be moving to my laptop soon … very soon. 


(For the record, I have other short story issues, too, but I’ll save the rest of my confessions for another day)

Moving Forward …

“Many people have a novel inside them, but most don’t bother to get it out. Writing is grunt work – you need to have self-motivation, perseverance, and faith… talent is the smallest part of it (one need only read some of the titles on the NYT Bestseller list to see that…) If you don’t believe in yourself, and you don’t have the fortitude to make that dream happen, why should the hotshots in the publishing world take a chance on you?” ~ Jodi Picoult

Two years ago I wrote a book, and it took me two years to give myself credit for writing that book. Over 300 pages sat and collected dust because I was scared that it was garbage and because, I would later learn, it was a young adult book, and I was firm in my position of not being a young adult writer. Who wants to write young adult books anyway? Ick!

So, I set aside the excuses and fears  and got moving this summer. I decided that I’m no longer going to talk about writing; instead I’m going to actually do some writing. 

I gave credit where credit is due. I stopped minimalizing my writing and what I have accomplished so far. I stopped talking about my book as some abstract thing that maybe someday I would actually hold in my hand. I gave myself credit for actually writing the book.  

“And – here’s a critical part – when you finally start to write something, do not let yourself stop…even when you are convinced it’s the worst garbage ever. This is the biggest caveat for beginning writers. Instead, force yourself to finish what you began, and THEN go back and edit it. If you keep scrapping your beginnings, however, you’ll never know if you can reach an end.” ~ Jodi Picoult

Over a month ago I received the latest Writer’s Digest magazine in the mail. I’m embarrassed to admit that something about the picture on the cover absolutely bugged me. I can’t explain why. Maybe it’s because the author interview was with a very successful young adult author I’d never even heard of (and who wants to read advice from a young adult author that you’d never heard of–really?). At any rate, it took me about a week to set aside my pride and delve into the magazine. What a life changing experience it was! Had the interview been with any other young adult author it might not have had the same effect. As it turns out, the interview was with Sarah Dessen, who is being hailed as this generation’s Judy Blume. 

To my surprise, this woman had gone through the same shocking experience as me when she realized that the book she wrote was actually a young adult book. That was a rough discovery for her but one that she quickly settled into and has made into a career.

This interview was a real eye opener for me. Somehow my mind was able to rest with the realization, and acceptance, that my book was targeted for young adults … and that’s okay. With this acceptance, I was able to give myself permission to move forward with my book. I crossed a major mental hurtle and now I’m able to keep moving. 

So, I’ve dusted off my book, and I’ve been in the process of editing and rewriting. This has been an amazing experience. Some days it is grunt work and other days it just flows naturally. Some days I’m convinced that it is a pile of garbage and other days I think it isn’t half bad. But I’m moving forward …