Short Stories are Key
I’ve never been one to write or even enjoy short stories. Or so I thought.
When I decided I was a writer, I believed that everything substantial that I wrote needed to be some part of the process of turning into a book. Because books were what people paid money for, and that was how you made money at your writing.
Short stories, blog posts, even long and detailed emails to family or friends, were just practice for the Main Event.
Now I am watching and learning from the World on how people get themselves Out There and what looks good on a writer’s CV, so to speak, and being “published” might just mean that their poem was included in the online magazine Schloogum’s Yearly Poetry Edition or some shit like that.
The more I saw people’s CV getting trotted out in their bios, be that at the beginning or end of an article, or in their Author’s Bio on Amazon, the more I saw that they tended to list everything they’d ever did or won. Sure, the White Noise of it all meant that I paid little attention to their accomplishments, at first, because I didn’t recognise any of it. I’m not a full-time writer, I don’t throw myself headlong into that world every day, so the best I can come up with is when I see it on the cover of the books I like enough, I start to notice when somebody wins the Ned Kelly. Otherwise, it made nary a ripple in my consciousness.
But then I started paying attention to what people listed as their accomplishments. I read one that was, in all likelihood, nothing really of note. But listed out after their name, it sounded good. “Shortlisted for the Argus Mayfair, Longlisted for the Twisting Shooter, published in Schloogum” all really just meant that they were putting themselves out there. When I started Googling some of these competitions/contests, the more I found they were $300 prizes and $25 entry fees for an award in its first year that may or may not be around next year.
Sure, the inner huckster in me thought, “Well shit, all you have to get is more than 12 entries and you’re turning a profit… I should start a Writing Contest!” Heh. But the rest of me figured that I should just start applying everywhere I can. Sure, I don’t have the $25 most of the time, so I stick to the Freebies, but I started to realise that there were a LOT of little comps and prizes out there, not to mention entire lists on somewhere like Submittable, calling for short stories.
And I had like, one. And it wasn’t very good. And it was too long.
So I started writing some, and some of them were even good. But too long. Then I’d scrap and fight and claw my way through to cut them down to the required amount, say 3,000 words, and the next contest that came up wanted 2,500. Well shit. The story can’t survive if I cut that much, so it’s time for yet another story. Then one is only 1,000 words, and so and so on.
I used to spend my writing time working on what I wanted to be doing. If I’m not getting paid, there’s no point in trying to slog my way through finishing the Big Finale in a sequel to a novel that’s still in significant need of a revision/rewrite when I’m just not feeling it. All I’ll do then is write crap, and while I’m a BIG fan of the notion that you can’t edit words that don’t exist, I also know the number of times I’ve held on to words that were close enough to what I wanted when I really should have just thrown them out. Editing is only as good as your Inner Garbage Man, and if you’re not in the right headspace for that either, it’s best to work on what mood you’re in.
And sometimes I was just in a mood to explore a concept. Sometimes I just woke up with a dream in my head that I had to get out. My latest is about a routine heist that goes wrong, and even though I’m having trouble finding an ending (because it’s a dream) I’m finding that I can keep it under 2,500 words and likely submit it to some contests.
Plus, and this is a big one, I started noticing on some of these entry forms that they had a section to list your accomplishments and such. They might even specifically ask you to give a truncated Bio in lieu of listing your CV in another section of the form. And I had shit. Jack Shit.
And I figured that all of a sudden my credibility would shoot through the roof as soon as I had something tangible. All I need to do is get longlisted in a few and I can start creatively phrasing that in my bio like, “…considered for the Whoopiesmack Award and longlisted for the Smackwhoopie Competition of 2022” because it’s really about listing something, rather than nothing, same as any CV.
I suppose this is one long way of saying “Sell Yourself” but really, if you’re not out to do that, then you’re writing as a hobby, for fun. While I want to do that, I also want to get paid for it someday. And I don’t necessarily want it to feel like work.
I mean, fuck it, I could WORK at writing and crank out about 3 different romance novels by the weekend. I could make a Pen Name, an attractive bio, a website and some Amazon novels and by a “published” author by early next week. But that’s work, and it’s not what fulfils my SOUL.
And for as Pie in the Sky Pollyanna as that may seem, that’s the dream right now, and that’s what I’m chasing.
Wish me luck.