The benefits of writing short stories
This morning a friend posted on Facebook a quote from another writer, inviting comments in response. The quote went:
Writing 20 short stories of 5,000 words each will teach you more about writing fiction than writing a 100,000 word novel. And they’ll make more money for you too.
The quote is from an article “Writing short stories: 3 tips for creating characters readers love“
I certainly agree with this statement.
Instead of one set of characters and one setting in a novel, you will have multiple settings, you can experiment with different voices and points of view, and include various types of characters in 20 or so stories (unless the stories are in a series written about one character).
Dealing with a diverse range of characters, settings and so on would certainly hone one’s writing skills. For beginner or emerging writers this would be particularly helpful. And to those writers my advice would be “Just write” – anything and everything. The more you practice any skill, the better you should become. Of course, mentoring and getting advice from experienced writers helps too; that’s why I did a Master of Arts (Creative Writing) a few years ago. I would also encourage the devouring of as many books and articles about writing as time allows.
Ray Bradbury (Science fiction writer) once told an aspiring writer to go away and write a million words – then come back and he’d mentor him. Malcolm Gladwell (“Outliers“) says it takes 10,000 hours of practice to develop expertise in any field of endeavour.
I never had much published until I had passed both of those marks. Once a writer has achieved those benchmarks, THEN it is time to tackle that 100,000 word novel – if that is what you want to do. By then you will know how to write, how to develop a character, how to plot and have a fairly good grasp of what it takes to be a writer. As an aside, I spent 35 years in elementary classroom teaching; it was only in the last few years that I caught myself saying that “now I know what this teaching thing is all about.”
By the way – later this year I should pass the 3 million word mark and next year the 20,000 hour mark. Despite this I have so much more yet to write about, and the more I write, the more I discover and imagine to write about.
I’ve only covered on small quote from the article my friend found. It has far more to say, especially about turning those short stories into e-books to make more money than a novel might ever produce.
Thanks to Jade for the inspiration to write this post.
Walking is an essential writing exercise
I came across an excellent article recently and thought I’d better share it with my readers. It seems that many writers are also walkers. They use taking a walk as an essential part of the writing process. I’ve been advocating this from time to time on this site, especially in those times when you seem not to be making progress with a piece of writing.
The article “On walking and writing” is well worth reading.
Then go out and take a walk.
I would – but I’m writing this post late at night!
Good writing – and walking.
Writers and public speaking
I would guess that writers are mostly introverted people, happy to sit in their office tapping away at their computer creating stories, novels, poems, articles and whatever. Many shy away from the spotlight of public speaking. I believe that this is a narrow view of the writer’s life, one that is potentially limiting to their success as writers.
Writers need to be public speakers
As much as some writers might want to run from this suggestion, in order to promote one’s work the writer today needs to e a good public speaker. I have done considerable public speaking in other areas but very little in relation to my writing. Over the last 5 years I have had many opportunities to speak about Australian birds as a direct result of another blog of mine, Trevor’s Birding.
Prepare to be a good speaker
Joanna Penn on her blog The Creative Penn has written an excellent article on this very topic. Her article How to prepare for public speaking covers the topic really well. I recommend that you flip over there and have a read – or listen to her video. Excellent stuff.
Some writers do not understand the power of regularly writing in a personal journal.
Journal writing is an excellent way of honing many writing skills that are essential to the writing process. It doesn’t matter much whether you write fiction, non-fiction, articles or blogs, regular writing practice is essential. If possible, I’d encourage all writers, especially beginner writers, to write every day, even if in the first few months or years journal writing is all you do.
I’ve kept a personal journal since July 1990. That means the 20th anniversary is coming up very soon; I must remember to celebrate it here on this blog. I write about anything that comes to mind about events and people in my life. I filled several hand written volumes at first but in recent years I have tended to use my computer. One day I might get around to printing it all out and binding the pages into booklets.
More recently I have also been keeping a writing journal. In this I have recorded the processes I have gone through in writing my stories, especially my recent novels. The journals include details of my ideas, sources of inspiration, research findings and the decisions I had to make along the way. In part you can read how I went about ‘Writing a Novel’ here.
When I was a classroom teacher I used Journal Writing as an integral part of encouraging children to write. The skills developed in my programme had some amazing results, not just with writing. I wrote about it in this article: The Power of Journal Writing – a Story of Hope.
This article relates the experience I had with one of my former students. I bring it to your attention now – especially for my many new readers who may have missed it at the time.
Writing success – magazine article
It is always nice to have a writing success – even if that is a modest piece of success.
This week I received a copy of a magazine which featured an article written by me. This article dealt with how I coped with the stresses of teaching in the few years before I retired. In one sense, writing this article went a small way to helping me heal from those challenging years.
Having my deepest feelings hung out in public was a little confronting, but I’m pleased I did it. It’s not the sort of thing I would ever publish here, nor often comment about. All I can say is that I sometimes find that writing can be a significant part of the healing process. I especially find that with my poetry.