Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Dream Job...

Sometimes I want to be a famous writer. This thought flies through my head all the time, as I'm sure it does to many others. However, that thought just gets stuck my's hard for me to put it into action. I feel like I have so many great ideas that just don't translate well onto paper. Lot's of first chapters in my head with nowhere else to go.

I once read that a good writer should have their entire book outlined before they start writing it, but I can't do that. I'm much more of a go with the flow kind of writer. Unfortunately, what tends to happen with me is that I get a good 10 pages out of a story and then wrap it up and call it a "short story" because I'm too impatient to put all of the time into it. Any suggestions from you writers out there?

I think my problem is discipline and patience. I need the discipline to stick with a story, develop it, research it, and write it....and the patience to not get frustrated and give up on all that too soon.

I don't even need to be a famous writer...I'll accept just being a writer. I'd be so happy if I could get my "Great American Novel" done. It would feel great even if it was never published. I just need to figure out how to get there.

I apologize to those who have been reading this blog for awhile and have undoubtedly read a very similar post to this one more than once. I guess that's a sign that I should start putting my words into actions. Maybe I'll be able to do that now that I'm out of school. I know I'll feel writing withdrawals without all of those papers! Maybe I can channel that energy into writing what I want to write. Maybe.


Carl V. said...

"I once read that a good writer should have their entire book outlined before they start writing it"

Personally I don't buy that. I think there are so many people out there who have been successful doing it there own way, and outlining the whole thing first isn't it.

Have you read John Scalzi's nonfiction book "You're not fooling anyone when you take your laptop to the coffee shop: Scalzi on Writing" book? If anything this book is hugely encouraging from the aspect of just getting in there and doing the work. He seems to be a very unconventional writer and I found his outlook strangely appealing.

I'm not sure one can be a successful writer without developing a close, personal relationship with patience, so that is probably something you're going to have to work through regardless of your writing style.

I'm going to do a mini-writing thing for one of the Once Upon a Time Challenge contests, maybe that will help motivate you. Its gonna be a very short project and one that will at least give you the satisfaction of having completed something.

Literacy-chic said...

There's nothing wrong with the short story! Because the novel is more marketable, publishers have devalued the short story, which is really a much more interesting genre in some way. (There is also the kind of pop-culture magazine status of the short story, from O'Henry to sci fi mags, etc., which leads people to regard the short story as a lower-brow genre--or at least less worthy of notice--than the novel. I disagree!) Novels are so sprawling. The short story requires artistry and restraint. From high school through graduate school, we have novels forced upon us that suffer from a lack of good editing and an excess of ego! So I'd say, if you have enough good plot and characterization for ten good pages, work on setting and imagery instead of lamenting the length! Then you can put together a number on a common theme and have the Great American Short Story Collection instead! (I know, not quite the rant you were looking for--sorry!) ;)

Are you familiar with the Years' Best Fantasy & Horror collections? I highly recommend them. And if you're looking for another "classic" to read, pick up Joyce's Dubliners--some of the finest short stories written last century. The more I read novels, the more respect I have for short stories!

Chris said...

You know what Carl, I think I'm going to pick up Scalzi's book. I never thought of getting a book to help me on writing...duh...I've been meaning to read some Scalzi too!

Patience is something I definitely have to learn. I'm starting to learn it more and more as a counselor with adolescents. Patience is a must with that population!

The Once Upon A Time contest sounds great! Can't wait!

You have a point N! I've been noticing more and more that short stories are making a come back. I have at least 5 short story collections sitting on my shelf right now with another one on it's way. We're starting to see big name authors releasing short story collections now. Thanks for putting that spin on it for me!

CdnReader said...

Some advice I received recently from a friend of mine who's a published author....and I quote:

"I recommend that when you're ready to begin, you ensure that you have a period of at least a month, maybe two, to dedicate exclusively to the writing of the novel. Have a room, a desk, a period of the day, that is reserved for that novel. Establish a low key living routine. Read nothing but NON-fiction..."

For what it's worth.... :)

I agree with Carl. Some writers write with outlines, and if you're looking for a publisher, you MUST supply one. But I don't think it's a necessity. Many writers just let the story develop on its own, or will have a loose outline that they're prepared to be flexible with.

Me personally.... I say just write. Write and write and write. Write blogs, write short bits, write journal entries, write pieces of stories, write whole stories, just keep writing. Don't worry about getting to a specific GOAL in the beginning, just write. If you're determined and if you just keep writing, it WILL come together....

Hope this helps! :)

aichaku-愛着 said...

i want to write too - but but - i keep writing drafts - and being here in singapore, well, that one explains itself - i don't have hopes of becoming famous at all, just to write a book - too many short stories going on here too - i think i ought to just get down to writing, i'm looking forward to carl's challenge.

DesLily said...

I'm not a writer but I pretty much know, that what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another. Everyone has to find what works best for them.

I wrote a trilogy, basically for myself. Each one I wrote I had the beginning and end in mind.. the rest filled itself in. Many times if you are including dialogue the characters take over and take you in directions you didn't even suspect, then of course you have to get them back on track for your ending ... somehow it winds up long enough to be a book! That's what happened to me.. it's just another way of doing things. I do know many work with an outline and maybe I did a little of that too. jotting notes on something that "could" work into what you are writing. I think often, once you establish your characters... they can take you on their own journey.

I've also heard that many take a short story as a "lead in" to a longer one.

But I'm not a "writer"..

Carl V. said...

An additional plug for the Scalzi book, it isn't a how-to on writing per se but more of a talk about the industry and a writer's life, but in the process I found it to be a book that would be very encouraging for someone who does want to write. I think you'll enjoy it.

It is a sold-out book, so you'll have to snag it used, but I noticed Amazon has a couple of copies through sellers on their site, one for less than $25 which is not a bad deal at all.

Nymeth said...

I too don't agree that a good writer needs to have the whole book planned before they write it. In fact, I've seen a few authors say the exact opposite. John Fowels, for example, and Diana Wynne Jones, have both said that you need to give your characters freedom, you need to let the story go to unexpected places, you need to surprise yourself as you write.

But of course, everyone writes in a different way, so what works for some may very well not work for others.

Patience is definitely necessary. This is a big problem for me as well. I do finish things, but the whole revising and editing process drives me crazy, so I end up throwing entire first drafts aside instead of working on them.

Short stories are definitely good things to write. I once wrote to Neil with a question about writing, and he replied on his blog (glorious day!) and one of the things he advised me to do is try short stories before I embark on novels.

I think that with writing, as with everything, practice makes perfect. So it's really important to set an hour aside every day for writing. Even if you're not writing a story in particular, it's good to just write, and to do it regularly. Of course, you have this blog, and I have no doubt it's helping to make you an even better writier. But yeah, practice and regularlity are things that Terry Pratchett (among others, I'm sure) recommends, and I think it's great advice.

Carl V. said...

Just to put my two cents in, short stories are amazing. I know they aren't everyone's cup-of-tea (and frankly I don't understand that, but I nod my head and smile politely) but I think they are amazing. In some ways I telling an outstanding short story is more difficult. You have less space in which to craft something that will grab hold of a person and entertain/inform/instruct/change them. You ought to know first hand just how true this is considering how powerful some of Gaiman's short stories are. Don't despise the short story!

Chris said...

Cdnreader...thanks for the encouragement :) Your suggestions are basically what I do...just write! I just need the discipline to stick with it. I love your friend's advice. Especially the "just read non-fiction". I tend to discourage myself too when I read other author's work because mine just "isn't as good".

Aichaku...sounds like we have a similar problem, eh? Hopefully Carl's challenge can help us both!

Deslily, Impressive! A trilogy! I can relate with the dialogue. Whenever I write dialogue, it just sort of goes it's own way. And I agree. Each writer has their own way of doing things. I just have to accept that!

Carl, I already checked it out on Amazon ;) It sounds great! I think I may just have to add that one to the collection...And I too have become quite fond of short stories. Especially recently. Between Neil Gaiman, Susanna Clarke, and Orson Scott Card's online mag, I've had all kinds of good ones to read!

Nymeth, That is great advice! I really should work on fitting in a little bit of time each day to write. I'd start to see results I'm sure. How cool that Neil answered one of your questions!

Thanks for all of the great advice guys! You all rock!

Stephanie said...

See....I haven't been reading long enough! Whatcha writing about??
(like I don't know it's something fantasy or sci-fi!!)

For me, I would have to have an outline. (I tend to ramble...and if I just went off the cuff, who KNOWS where it would end!) BUT I don't think that it's a necessity for a writer by any means!!

Good Luck!

Chris said...

Hey Stephanie, You'd be surprised...when I write, it usually isn't Sci-fi or Fantasy. There's usually a hint of fantasy, but not enough to call it fantasy. I never really thought about that, but what I write is nothing like what I read. Strange....

I just can't do an outline. I have to just go with the flow...I won't stick to an outline if I do it.

Thanks for the comment, your comments always make me smile :D

Megan said...

I was thinking last night about how people want to get their book published. But is that enough? I thought about how many books a day are vanishing into obscurity, or even worse, never leave obscurity.

I agree with the others, you definitely don't have to have the whole novel planned out. I also think the idea of writing a novel is over rated. The concept of a well crafted short story is much more appealing to me.

Being impatient is fine, but don't abandon your work, don't be willing to call it done. Too often I free write a story for a few pages, outline the rest of my ideas and abandon it.

I also think that a well crafted short story could be expanded into a novel, if that's your ultimate goal, but only if you put the work into it first.

It is interesting to me that you never considered a book about writing because I am totally addicted to them. My suggestion is Beyond the Words by Bonni Goldberg. It is available at a discount price at and I am still in the middle of reading it but I personally really need to read the section on revision. I try to generate new material every day, but what is the point if I don't do anything with it?

Bookfool said...

I think there are two types of writer: outliners and the rest of us. I've known successful writers of both kinds. Linda Howard - romantic suspense writer - does all her planning in her head, no outlining or notes at all. Then, she does a two-week marathon writing session at the end of which she has a book (and is a total wreck).

Like you, I just wrote short stories because I lack discipline and couldn't get my head around a full-length plot for many years. NaNoWriMo finally nudged me to write an entire novel. Are you familiar with National Novel Writing Month? I highly recommend giving it a try. It's lousy timing as it's always held in November - with Thanksgiving toward the end, an early December kid birthday and Christmas, it really throws me off. But, it worked for me brilliantly.

Chris said...

Thanks for the tips Megan! I'm way too much of a fiction junkie. I rarely read non-fiction, even if it's something that can help me out like a writing book. But I think I'm going to be picking one up. Thanks for the Goldberg suggestion.

Bookfool, I just discovered National Novel Writing Month when I found out that you were a past winner! How cool! Maybe I'll use that as some more motivation to get my butt into the writing chair!

Bookfool said...


It's really fun - a great way to get your rear in gear and meet other writers who need a serious nudge. :)

Quixotic said...

I think, between them, everyone here has pretty much said all that I have to say in response to this.

Writing is my dream too. It's something I'm finally allowing myself to work towards - I've talked about this on my other blog quite a bit in the past - all the reasons why I haven't pursued the desire for so long.

Anyway, I don't believe there is a right way or a wrong way. There is just your way.

Chris said...

Totally agreed Quix. After talking about this with everyone else and thinking about it some more, I guess everyone really does just have their own style and there really is no "right way" to write. I think you'd be an amazing writer. I'd love to read some of your writing :)

Quixotic said...

Thanks Chris :) At the moment I mostly have a notebook full of ideas and words.

A fun game I like to play when I'm thinking about writing a story is to do a sort of word association on a piece of paper or in a notebook, along the theme of what I want to write about. I had a lot of fun with that for a vampire story. That said, I haven't actually finished the story yet. LOL.

I don't plan outlines either, except perhaps a vague idea in my head. When I have tried planning everything out, the story has always derailed anyway.

Hopefully in the near future I'll get round to sharing some stuff. If I'm feeling brave!