Some time ago they told me that I wrote too many short stories and that it would rust me. That if I didn’t write novels I couldn’t consider myself a writer, because apparently writers only write novels. I suppose I should have answered something, but I was so taken aback, I was speechless. That statement is not only silly, it could not be more wrong.
One of the things that has bothered me the most since I started in this world is narrow-mindedness — another is envy, but we’ll have time to talk about that. Everyone demands innovation, everyone wants blood to circulate … But when push comes to shove, those in charge are so stagnant that they smell like swamp.
Telling a writer to stop writing so many short stories is like telling a mechanic to stop changing spark plugs. Focus only on repairing engines. Changing wheels, brake pads and checking fluid levels is unsuccessful. You have to be the best and that is why you only have to write novels. Nobody in their right mind would say that to a mechanic, however, a writer can be told and stay so hot.
I still get chills just remembering the little phrase. I must assume, following this line of thought, that Edgar Alan Poe was a bad writer. Pofale…
Novels and short stories
Writing a short story has nothing to do with writing a novel. Although the process is a bit similar – because of having to hit the keys – the rest is quite different. At least it is for me. I write a short story a week — two if I’m especially inspired — however writing a novel is something that I think about very occasionally.
Why? Because I don’t like the process — what a shitty writer, huh? Well yes, but I don’t like having to get involved in something so long, I don’t like having to focus on a single project that I don’t even know if I’ll be able to finish — because I’m one of those people who disperse easily. For me, it is much easier and more comfortable, to sit down and write short stories, why do I have to feel that I am doing the wrong things? What if I feel like dedicating myself only to writing stories?
When he wrote by ear
I started writing seriously in my twenties. When I say serious I mean to do it every day, with a certain perspective for the future. I got really into it when my first two stories were published in an anthology. I guess that was a moment of general change in my life patterns.
Until then he wrote stories very occasionally. In dead times, on vacation … Very occasionally, always in old notebooks that I had at home.
Then they published a couple of stories in two contests. At that time they seemed like the host. Of course, then he did not understand anything of what he was doing, he was walking in the dark down a corridor. Do you know that ignorance is daring? Well, that’s how I was, I had no idea about structures, times, characters, rhythms … I only wrote what I liked, wrote and enjoyed each word.
You can’t get an idea of what I miss those years. Now, each word, each sentence, each story, has to be subjected to a scrutiny that, in most cases ends up killing creativity and, although it leaves a good result on paper, it ends up leaving me an aftertaste to ash in the mouth.
Nowadays, writing for me is no longer the same, I think, in this time I have lost a bit of momentum. What in my town is called “espenta”?
At that time, I suppose it was driven by that early success that I decided to write novels. I had never heard the word escaleta in my life and had no idea what the structure of my novel had to be like. He simply wrote bareback and learned as he went. Like all life: trial and error.
An advice? There is only one profession in which this method of learning can be more damaging than writing and that is juggling chainsaws.
The moment of the truth
I lost four years and a lot of work along the way. I wrote two shitty novels before hitting the key to write something decent. I finally wrote something worthy of being published by a publisher.
If I had had a Delorean at that time — now I have one — I would have traveled back to talk to myself. There are certain things I would have liked to say to myself: read more books on writing, participate in writing workshops, your friends are not good zero readers – a writer will always be better – and above all, forget about novels, there are more effective ways to write your shit.
If a new ghost writer, today, asked me for just one writing advice, it would be this: forget about novels, you have to write short stories.
Since I don’t want to be the only one, here is a link to an email from Gabriella Campbell in which she tells you more or less the same thing.
Time is the great complaint of all who are dedicated to this. Everyone needs more time, because as a general rule you don’t dedicate yourself exclusively to writing; you have other jobs, family, do sports…
A short story can be written in a week – or less – so your trial / error time is shorter.
Each writer has their own super powers, they are called voice and style. It is the style and the voice of the writer that hooks you to a book that is why you prefer the book to the movie. But developing your style and your voice will take many years. You will have to write a lot to develop a personal and recognizable style. And on the way you are going to screw up a lot.
You are going to grate the car by parking many times, you will see. The best thing, as in the case of driving, is that you learn all that in the shortest possible time. Trust me when I tell you that a ten-page story is much easier to review and presentable than a five-hundred-page novel.
Trial and error
As I have told you before, writing a novel is a great commitment. It is a time commitment. You are going to commit to a voice, a point of view, a genre and a structure.
For your sake, if you start narrating in the third person and in the past tense, you’d better keep doing it throughout the novel. If your character has an Andalusian accent, don’t change it to Basque at one hundred pages. If you have charged a character you cannot kill him again nor can he suddenly appear alive – unless it is Gandalf.
In short stories we have the same commitments. But the terms are much shorter, in the stories you have no commitment to stay.
This means that you will have many more opportunities and much more time to try new things. You will be able to write from various points of view, on various topics, you will be able to play all the genres that come out of there…
That lack of long-term commitments will allow you to screw up enough to develop that personal style and voice that you so much need and do it in a lot less time.
Sometimes you realize that you have found the great story. You have a great idea, a premise that hits it. They are those moments when you are sure that you are making love passionately to the muses. But suddenly things start to go wrong. That good story starts to leak everywhere … You realize that there is something wrong.
It may be a character, it may be that the story did not give so much, you may have screwed up the point of view or that you have deflated. Ask any writer, they know what it is. There are stories that end up destined for euthanasia.
There are few things more screwed up in this world than realizing that your story does not give for more when you have 30,000 words written. There’s nothing worse than that moment when you realize you weren’t fucking the muse, that you were actually alone in your room on your belly button. Euthanizing a story you’ve fought so hard for makes you miserable.
These shits are part of the process. When you start writing you will find yourself in many of these dead ends. As you spend more time writing, you will be able to tell “good ideas” from “bad ideas” at first glance. If you can see yourself writing from beginning to end, it is a good idea… If any of the steps are not clear, forget about it.
Trust me, I have about three dead novels. Learning by screwing up is always painful, but it will be much less when you only have to carry ten or three pages.