For the month of June, I will write and submit a short story using Joe Bunting‘s books, Let’s Write a Short Story and 15 Days to Write and Submit a Short Story (the second of which you can read for free as an advanced reader copy (ARC) – available at StoryCartel.com – in exchange for a review).
I had a free hour or two the other day and a story idea to work with, and I ended up typing out the whole story – or the story as it came from my head – from start to finish. I know it was just a first draft, but it was a finished first draft. And it made my day.
Yes, it needs work before I even think of submitting it for publication, but I was thrilled to have written a whole story of around 2500 words in an hour or so (or a couple hours. I forgot to time myself. Maybe it was longer).
I have a novel that’s still in need of some major plot therapy – not to mention the work of finding those all-important third dimensions for two of my main characters.
Short stories, on the other hand – the first draft, anyway – are almost as fun to write as my daily journal entries.
I should add that, for the story I knocked out in about two hours, I already had let the idea behind the story percolate in my head for a few days, adding a few details now and then, as they came to mind. I had my beginning written already, a character who felt real to me, and the skeleton of the story. I just had to give my subconscious a chance to talk, without interruption, until I’d reached the end of the story.
And it worked! Which got me thinking.
What if I were to write – and submit – a short story every month.
Could I do that? I’d just finished a first draft in two hours or less, but I hadn’t done the editing, yet, so I couldn’t factor that into the time required to write, polish, and submit a story for publication (or to publish it myself).
And then I found this book: 15 Days to Write and Submit a Short Story, by Joe Bunting, and I had to read it. Lucky for me, Story Cartel had advanced reader copies available to read for free (as long as I post an honest review after reading it), so I nabbed it and went to work.
I’ve also been re-reading my copy of Let’s Write a Short Story, and right now, I’m in a better place to act on it.
This blog has changed over the three years I’ve been writing for it. It’s been my training ground, in some ways. I started it as a way to create an online source of writing samples, as well as to figure out what to do as a beginning freelance writer.
I was making a list the other day of the things I enjoy writing. My blog was on the list, since I’ve enjoyed writing for it and connecting with other writers and readers. Short stories were on the list, too, as well as nonfiction ebooks.
I needed to make the list. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been better at answering the questions, “What do you not want to do?” and “What do you not want?” than the more pressing questions, “What do you want to do?” and “What do you want?”
So, I needed to allow myself to list the things I enjoy writing – not just things I thought I was capable of writing. Because if I have to spend my days writing things that mean nothing to me and that pay very little, I might as well just stick with my day job for the long-term.
It’ s a great day job, and my co-workers are the best. It’s part-time, too, which means – as long as the job doesn’t wipe me out for the rest of the day – I still have plenty of time to write. And one of my favorite story ideas might never have come to me, if not for my day job.
Still, I’m finally working toward building my writing business, with the goal of replacing not only my lunch lady income but, eventually, my husband’s income, too.
To that end, I’ve applied to several writing gigs, and sometime during the application process for some of them, I found myself thinking, “This is awful. Why would I want to write this stuff every day – even if it paid a lot more than it does (which isn’t much)?”
I’ve pitched for a few gigs that made me think, “Ooh, that could be fun.” I haven’t heard back from any of them, yet, and it’s well past the window during which they’d be likely to respond. It’s discouraging, though, combing over job boards and finding maybe one gig every few days that I could write about and that I could also enjoy writing about.
Isn’t it possible for me to earn a decent living doing the kind of writing I enjoy?
I hope so! For now, I’m focusing on a short list of ways to get more writing done and to get it out there.
Short stories are on my short list of things to write to get the ball rolling.
My blog is also on that list. I’m bringing the two together today to let you all know what I’m up to and to share a valuable resource, particularly for those interested in writing short stories.
I did say I was going to give you five reasons WHY to write short stories, so here goes. You can also find compelling reasons in Joe Bunting’s book, Let’s Write a Short Story.
Five reasons to write a short story – this month or during fifteen (or more) days of your own choosing:
- With short stories, you get to fail sooner and learn from those failures. Upshot? You become a better writer faster. Plus, you get to go all Stephen King and start collecting rejection letters as badges of honor. Because they are! They’re proof that you’re writing stories and getting them out there for others to read – taking risks that many are not willing to take with their writing. Because you’re brave enough to do it. Your love of writing is bigger than self-doubt, and you’re less afraid of exposing yourself to criticism than of doing nothing. And that makes you a rockstar in my book.
- It’ll give you something you can either post for sale on Amazon (a 99 cent ebook to begin your career as a prolific writer and self-publisher) or offer your blog subscribers as a gift for signing up for your e-letter.
- If you’re anything like me, having a smaller project to tackle is more motivating. I’m not saying short stories are easier to write, but they are shorter, and if, as Joe Bunting suggests in his book, I can write and submit a short story in fifteen days, it sounds more doable and less overwhelming than tackling my current novel right now. I’m hoping that, in writing a short story within the space of a month, I’ll come away from the experience with more confidence and greater readiness – and insight – to tackle the longer and more complex project of my novel.
- You can explore more genres in less time than if you tried to write a novel in each one. I can, for example, write something similar to the Flannery O’Connor short stories I’ve enjoyed, or I can try writing a short fantasy or a short science fiction story, just to stretch myself in different directions. Why limit yourself to just one? Some of the more fascinating offerings I’ve run across lately are stories that blend genres. As long as the character is someone I care about enough to keep reading – and the story itself is engaging – I’m hooked, regardless of the genre.
- If you can’t quit your day job (or at least not yet), and your daily writing time is limited, short stories (as well as other short works) may be better suited to your lifestyle and more likely to help you get published sooner, thereby helping you to quit that day job sooner, so you can spend more time writing.
So, what can you do to get started? First of all, I’d recommend reading the books I’ve mentioned. You can also check out Joe Bunting’s website, The Write Practice, which has a post titled, “Top 100 Short Story Ideas,” as well as a free tutorial on writing short stories.
Other books I’ve enjoyed reading and have added to my writing library include the following:
- Rob Parnell’s The Easy Way to Write Short Stories that Sell and Easy Cash Writing
- James Scott Bell’s How to Make a Living as a Writer
- Derek Murphy’s How to Write, Format, Publish and Promote your Book (Without Spending Any Money)
There will be others. I’m reading at least one nonfiction book every month, so I’ll share what I find most helpful.
What about you? Have you run across any books that have helped you so much you love to tell others about them? If you know of any that are specifically about writing short stories and that you think should be on my list of helpful resources, please comment below. I look forward to reading from you.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this! Take care, and have a great week. 🙂
* P.S. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links – most of the links that take you to an Amazon page, but not all. I include them only because I’ve read these books myself and have found them helpful. No pressure to buy any of them, but I hope you at least take a peek. 🙂