There was a time a bunch of years ago when I was writing 2-3 hours a day, after I got home from work, after Abby was in bed. I wrote a bad book then another. I needed to learn what not to do. I wrote very few short stories. Middle and high school had been the time for stories, but not adulthood. Being an adult meant the big stuff. Eighty to a hundred thousand words of brilliance.
Except, well, it wasn’t all brilliant. Maybe there were glimpses of it, portions where the reader would say “wow.” But overall, I had a lot of learning to do and wasn’t selling. At one point someone at a conference suggested I write short stories to get my name out there. It felt like a step back. No. I was writing BOOKS. And I was going to make a ton of money and quit my day job and sell movie rights…
But reality hit. I needed to get my name out there, like he said. So I tried to remember how to write a story, how to condense an idea into three to five thousand words of intensity where every word mattered. It was hard, harder than a novel in some ways because there’s no time or words to waste.
In the midst of relearning that craft, I wrote a little book, merely for my daughter, to make a happy ending for a real life situation that hadn’t worked out so well for us. And wouldn’t you know that’s the book that sold. First it went to a little publisher, then a bigger little publisher. When that went horribly wrong it went to another little publisher where it resides now. I marketed it the best I could, but the whole time was thinking, “But I want to write a big book! A grown up book!” I went through a period where I read like crazy. A book a week, plus the aforementioned 2-3 hours a night of writing. I also attended 4-5 conferences and workshops a year. I was on a networking, learning, writing roll and couldn’t be stopped.
My short story writing got better, my novel writing got better. I even dabbled in screenplays which, if nothing else, made me a better novelist as I learned that all media should be tight and without wasted words. After trying to sell my adult novels for a long time, with nibbles but no bites, I stopped trying. I completed a 50k Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) book two years ago but since then? Nothing. I’ve penned and sold a few short stories but haven’t even thought about writing a new novel. Part of me wondered if that opportunity had passed, if I’d written too many short stories to ever go back to long fiction. Maybe I didn’t have it in me. I had gotten lazy and had become overwhelmed which is a deadly combination to any writer.
I stopped reading a book a week and have been lucky to read 4-5 books a year. Where did all the time go? Life. A new boyfriend. Being a single mom. The day job. Night school. Canning Jams. More pets than I can handle. In essence, anything at all to keep me from writing. Keep me from potentially failing. Keep me from rejection letters.
In the meantime, since about 97% of my friends are writers, and since my Facebook news feeds are filled with one “I signed a contract/sold a story/will be at a signing” post after another, part of me wanted to just crawl in a hole and give up.
But then about a month ago I got an email that I’d sold the newest short story I had written. About two weeks later, my PayPal revealed I’d just received cash from my first pro writing sale for another short story I’d written years ago (in the frenzied writing time).
Last weekend I got up at 8am, got an X-Large coffee from Dunkin’ Doughnuts (with a turbo shot) and edited an old 500 page manuscript. I was at it for about 14 hours straight. It felt good. Really good. Sunday, it was a six-hour shift. But I finished. Then I read 300 pages of The Kite Runner all at once. Not with resentment because it was so damn well-written but with appreciation for the words and story, and a realization that I too know how to write. Maybe not that well, but I can write. I just have to actually do it. Not hide under the covers. Not make excuses.
Tonight I am going to edit the remaining short stories that are set for a collection I’m putting together. The rest of the week, edit a novella that has been sitting in the corner like a neglected child. There is a lot to do, a lot of lost time to make up. A lot of creativity coursing through my veins again.
Don’t forget to check out my AMAZON PAGE to see all my fiction currently for sale.