Some great advice about writing from Neil Gaiman.
Some great advice about writing from Neil Gaiman.
The key thing to remember about writing: It’s about writing! The more we think about what we write, the harder it gets. We can talk and think ourselves out of writing far easier than allowing ourselves just to write. The mind of a writer is filled with objections because most writers are afraid of writing something that doesn’t make sense, or worse, writing something that comes across as idiotic or is considered arbitrary. Your inner voice all too often will put forth resistance, telling you that you don’t make any sense whatsoever and you’d be much better off doing anything, except writing!
Maybe you’ll recognize some of these inner objections:
Am I really a writer? Am I any good?
Will anyone care about what I write about?
Does my story make any sense to anyone else?
Do I constantly repeat myself?
Do I over-edit?
Do my characters seem real? Do they have depth? Should I just go ahead and kill them all off now and give up writing forever?
Do I suck? No, I don’t. Yes, I do.
How bad do I suck? Bad! The Titanic sunk because it knew that I would be born and try to become a writer.
Why Writers Struggle So Much With Rejection
One of the things my inner voice loves to tell me is that my writing is total and complete garbage and beyond any shadow of a doubt will be rejected. My inner voice isn’t alone, as so-called experts tried to convince me of the same things too. Fear of rejection is powerful, because at some point or another we have all been rejected for something, and we never forget the pain. The more times we have been rejected for anything, the more doubt compounds within us. This is an especially complicated issue for writers, because we’ve all heard the stories and watched the movies where writers get rejected. Some will even tell you that if you want to be a writer then you better get used to being rejected. It’s almost as bad as trying to ask someone on a date for the very first time. The possibility of being turned down isn’t just extremely high, it’s 100% going to happen.
Have I made you feel any better about rejection? I didn’t think so. The good news is that the power of rejection holds less threat for writers today. You don’t need an editor’s approval to self-publish and you don’t have to send out thousands of letters to be accepted by any agent or publisher if you don’t want to. So then, what’s to stop you from writing and publishing your writing? Perhaps it’s the internal messaging system we all have that tends to tell us that when doing something, anything, it must be done in a certain way or it won’t be acceptable. Well, that may have been true for a long time, but when it comes to writing and publishing your work, you are now the-end-all-be-all if you want to be.
I think we hold onto memories of rejection because we try to avoid putting ourselves in a position of being rejected again, no matter what type of rejection that might be or from whom. Very few of us, if any, are completely free of this internal fear. All of us have our own way of dealing with it; however, to be truly free of the fear of rejection, one must come to terms with it. One way I have done that is to write for myself, knowing I can publish whatever I write if I choose to. That doesn’t mean I’ll sell a million copies or that it will attract a huge readership, but it’s still a freedom that gives me room to write. Blogging helps too, because it can be done regularly, in increments, and articles can be published privately first and then, when we’re ready, we can publish them publicly. Blogging also takes a while to gain a readership, so our writing is exposed to readers more slowly. As we gain more readers over time, we naturally gain confidence and eventually worry less about being rejected.
How to Conquer the Internal Editor One Word at a Time
At times, if you want to get past the internal resistance of your own mind, you actually have to give in and allow yourself to write whatever you come up with. Even if your writing seems like terrible, useless drivel no one will want to read, the more you write and get your thoughts on paper, or on the screen, or on your blog, the less power the internal nay saying voice has.
Writing rituals also help, which I’ll get to in a moment. Before writing, you might consider looking in the mirror and telling yourself you’re going to write the best gibberish you can come up with, and then challenge yourself to do exactly that! You may find yourself amazed at how much sense your gibberish makes when you read it back.
If you’re like me, then you’d like your first draft to be your only draft, but you probably also know that’s not what actually happens. Writing a first draft is mostly just getting your thoughts out of your head, but there’s a little more to it. A first draft often only makes sense to you, the writer, and it will need to be shaped and formed during the second and, perhaps, third draft. We sometimes heap unnecessary pressure on ourselves to write a perfect first draft. I don’t know of any writer who is ever completely satisfied with his or her first draft. I know I never am. It is the action of writing that matters, not necessarily the content itself.
The Most Important Advice Any Writer Will Ever Hear
I am willing to bet every writer on God’s green earth has been told their first draft is crap. Somehow we come to believe it and even tell ourselves this without ever considering the true mental and emotional impact. I refuse to join the chorus. Allow me to share something very important with you and it took me too long to realise it.
Your first draft is not crap no matter how far from perfect it might be.
I regret the many first drafts I’ve thrown away, because I’ll never be able to get them back. An idea is wonderful, but an idea written down is heaven. As a draft, it becomes a physical, tangible manifestation you can refer to and build on. Throwing away an idea, even symbolically, is painful and wasteful. I think all of us have woken from dreams and wished we had written them down, even if just haphazardly, and even if only to remember them later. How many dreams have you forgotten, but somehow the feeling that they were wonderful still stays with you? What if you had written about a dream while it was still fresh in your mind? What if that became your first draft? What would you refer to it as? I somehow doubt you would call it crap.
Think about it a moment. Consider how the word crap makes you feel (and I am using the “clean” version of the word). What emotional value does it provide? The first draft matters the most and it deserves proper credit. The belief you’re merely writing crap in order to be okay with the fact that it’s not “good” only serves to feed your doubts about your writing.
Every book, every article and every blog post starts off as a first draft. A first draft is when you turn an idea into some coherent form, when you’ve assembled your loose thoughts from notes collected on napkins, scraps of paper, or from your voice recorder. You know how painstaking this process is. Your first draft is perhaps the most important step to completing your project. It’s special. No one’s ever gotten to the end without the beginning. Crap is the last thing in the world that your first draft is!
I’m writing this because too many have come to believe that when they sit down and write their first draft they aren’t doing something crucial to the creative process. I mean, how important can crap be? Don’t throw away another seed before it has the opportunity to grow into something beautiful. Don’t discard the memory of another glorious dream before it can be realised.
Are You Consciously Investing in Your Writing?
I discovered this the hard way. If I don’t think constructively about what I’m writing, I won’t make the necessary mental and emotional investment it takes to see my writing through to fruition. Once I figured this out, I lowered my risk of falling into depths of writer’s doubt and became much more prolific. Your state of mind has a huge influence on your confidence and productivity. Today, when I sit down and write my first draft, I have the greatest respect for it. It won’t be perfect, and it certainly won’t be polished, but without the first draft I wouldn’t have anything!
If you want to feel better about your imperfect draft, then acknowledge that it’s incomplete and know you will shape it later on. It will take time and hard work. It won’t always be fun, but if it was just crap, would you want to put that kind of effort into it? I wouldn’t. What if you stopped calling it crap and started calling it by its true value? Would that change your perspective and increase the emotional value you place in your work?
Let’s be honest here, just for a moment. Between you and me, in the real world, what do you do with crap? You flush it or bin it. You’re too good for that and your first draft is too! No matter how imperfect it might be and no matter how much work must still be done.
With respect and admiration for Ernest Hemingway, I prefer this quote by Michael Lee:
“The first draft reveals the art, revision reveals the artist.”
One Easy Path to Respecting What You Write in Your First Draft
Starting a new writing project is an exciting, mysterious, and sometimes nerve-racking adventure, so try not to limit your process. I have several ways I use to get myself started. One very effective method is talking to myself.
Do you ever talk to yourself? When you’re alone (I think you’ll really want to be alone for this one), go ahead and start talking to yourself. Talk about anything: how the day has been, why you didn’t do something you should have done, a situation at work, or whatever happens to be on your mind.
Here, I’ll help you with a couple of questions: What do you really want to write about? Is there a special story that you want to tell? Talk out loud to yourself about that story, tell yourself openly and honestly why you want to write it.
Now here’s the key to this exercise: while you’re talking, make sure you have a word processor open. Type everything that you say, every single word. Don’t look at the monitor. No, don’t do that! Carry on your conversation with yourself until you’ve said everything you need to. Try not to hold anything back. When you’re finished talking, then, and only then, look at the monitor. There’s your first draft ready to be fashioned into your story. It might not be perfect, it might not be exactly what you wanted to write, but it certainly isn’t crap. It is a start, and it’s your very own personal invitation to continue writing.
Like I said, writing is about writing and sometimes it’s not what we write, but the actual process of writing itself that matters the most.
A little while ago, I published the article On Depression and Writing by Derek Haines on Writer’s Blog, as I found it quite an interesting piece and thought others might like it too.
Since publishing it though it has played on my mind – how this writer has found depression so enabling with his writing process – and I have been thinking: lucky him.
Now, before I get in to this I need to say I love talking about writing, and books, stories, the writing process, etc etc, but I do not talk publicly about my own struggles. However, in order to discuss my thoughts on this topic I have to open up about myself – so here goes:
I have struggled with depression for years. I don’t talk about it, most people don’t know about it, in fact, some of my friends and acquaintances reading this will be shocked to find out about it, because when I’m out and about I plaster on a smile and be as helpful and as enthusiastic as I can possibly be. But behind closed doors I am in a lot of pain. I don’t want to burden people with it or bring them down, so I generally keep it all completely to myself. Posting this is therefore the most un-like-me thing to do. But, I want to talk about depression and writing, of which I have an awful amount of experience, so I can hardly discuss it and not mention my own experiences.
For me, depression is completely debilitating. Amongst other things, I have been writing a novel now for some time. The thing that stops me finishing it – apart from the editor living in my head who won’t allow me to just “write a crap first draft” – is depression. It’s not just “feeling a little bit low” and something I can easily “snap out-of”, like turning off a lightbulb, it is a constant everyday battle with myself.
Every writer goes through that “I’m shit and no one will want to read this trollop” stage. But with depression, that stage takes on a whole new life of its own. It becomes “I’m shit, and worthless, and useless, and maybe I should just kill myself” and “no-one is going to want to read this trollop because who am I kidding, I should just give up right now!”.
Depression has been the one biggest obstacle to my writing above anything and everything else. Money is an issue, of course, but you can always do a bit of extra work or beg and borrow it from somewhere. No one else can save you from the games your mind plays on you when you are depressed. I can sit in a room with nothing to do but write, and depression will pop up its head, and I will just sit there and cry, or procrastinate by doing anything else to distract myself from myself that I can – music, TV, social media – you name it, but can I manage to write a single word: no.
And then what happens? I feel even worse because I’ve done nothing, achieved nothing. And so the downward spiral continues. I have endless amounts of both respect and awe for the writer Matt Haig, who has famously and openly suffered with depression for a long time and still been a successful published author. I just wish I knew how he did it. I’m guessing sheer determination and resilience, because I know personally that it takes a massive amount of inner strength to battle depression everyday and still keep writing.
It is my hope that one day I will make it, both as a writer and as a happy individual. But for now, I will keep on struggling forward a day at a time. If any of you reading this are saying – yes, this is me too, she gets it – then I hope this post encourages you to keep writing too, and to know that although it feels like it, you are not alone.
Every month, the Writer’s Bone crew reviews or previews books they’ve read or want to read. This series may or may not also serve as a confessional for guilty pleasures and hipster novels only the brave would attempt. Here are their recommendations for May 2017:
- Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
- The Wrong Side Of Goodbye by Michael Connelly
- Marlena by Julie Buntin
- Janesville, An American Story by Amy Goldstein
- Little Victories by Jason Gay
- The River Of Kings by Taylor Brown
- American War by Omar El Akkad
- A Brutal Bunch Of Heartbroken Saps by Nick Kolakowski
- The Dinner Party by Joshua Ferris
- Tell Me How It Ends by Valeria Luiselli
- The One-Eyed Man by Ron Currie
- Recitation by Bae Suah
- The Warren by Brian Evenson
- Unbearable Splendor by Sun Yung Shin
- Hothouse by Karyna Mcglynn
- Make: A Decade Of Literary Art
- Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar
Click on the links above for a detailed synopsis of each book, or follow the following link to see what the Writer’s Bone crew had to say: http://www.writersbone.com/book-recommendations/books-that-should-be-on-your-radar-may-2017
BATH NOVEL AWARD: 2017 LONGLIST ANNOUNCEMENT
This year a record 1,163 novels were submitted by writers in 48 countries.
Of the 33 novels selected for this year’s longlist, one third are by writers based outside the UK, including Canada, New Zealand, Netherlands, Switzerland and the USA. Novel settings range from the UK to Ukraine, time travel in Wales, earthquakes in El Salvador, deadly Norwegian forests, even a sunless future Birmingham. Two thirds of the novels are by women writers and one male writer has two novels listed. Six writers have been longlisted by us before, either for an earlier draft or a different book. In terms of genre, literary, psychological suspense, thrillers, YA, women’s and crime lead our 2017 longlist, followed by historical, comedy, fantasy and speculative novels. Notable trends amongst the final 33 include the rise of the immigrant hero, activist lit and a distinct upswing in novels with themes about deception – by those in power and of ourselves – and the search for love, light and life in the darkest of days.
As our judges read “blind” we’ll be keeping the longlisted writers’ identities under wraps until the winner, as chosen by literary agent Laura Williams of Peters, Fraser Dunlop is announced on July 6th. Shortlisted titles will be announced on June 14th.
In the meantime, huge congratulations to the writers of these 33 standout titles:
- After the Lunch
- Brave Girls
- Enemies at the Gate
- Finding Freedom
- Forget Me Not
- In a Rushdie Winter
- Jacob’s Ladder
- Jonathon Fairfax Must Be Destroyed
- Lost Journals at Sundown
- Mountainous Regions of the Heart
- One of Us
- Over the Coconut Trees
- Start Wearing Purple for Me Now
- Strangers on a Bridge
- The Binding Frame
- The History of You
- The Light Factory
- The Lost Sister
- The Pact
- The Pear Drum
- The Proof of the Outside
- The Silence of Shannon
- The Still Gate
- What Was Left Behind
- Yet Wilderness Grew in My Heart
If you have ever been to a writing class, group, retreat or similar, you will most likely have heard the term “freewriting”.
In freewriting, you write just fast enough so that your hand moves faster than your brain can defend itself. The results are sometimes unpredictable, but the most surprising images, characters, memories and stories can pour out onto the page.
How to Freewrite
What exactly is freewriting?
- Freewriting is a practice that helps to liberate your writer’s voice and connects you to the vibrant stream of creativity that lies just under the surface of our ordinary thinking.
- Freewriting can be used to launch you over a writer’s block, to explore painful emotional memories, and to work out problems in a longer work. It can be used for making contact with one’s own unconscious.
- Freewriting is a simple, structured practice that is flexible and forgiving. It can be used as the base of a writing practice, or spontaneously whenever you want to go deeper into a subject.
A good way to learn freewriting is through a 10-minute timed write.
When we freewrite, we try as much as possible to suspend judgment about what we are writing. It is an exercise in getting out of our own way. You may notice you are writing in a way that is unacceptable or foreign to what you are accustomed to. Try to simply observe the process rather than interrupt it.
Here are some freewriting guidelines, although in the spirit of freewriting freedom, feel free to not follow any that don’t feel right.
- Use a prompt. If you run out of ideas before the time is up, start writing the prompt and see if a new thought arises. Go with it.
- Set a timer. Having a reliable timer will free you from being drawn away from what you are writing. If you are moved to, feel free to continue writing after the time has expired until you complete your thought.
- Keep your pen moving. Don’t stop writing until the timer goes off.
- Write quickly. Write a little bit faster than your thought formation, even if it’s a little uncomfortable. Messy handwriting is welcome.
- Use the first word. Don’t try to think of the perfect word, just use the first word that comes to mind and go with it. Don’t worry about paragraphing, subject-verb agreement or even if what you are writing makes sense. Just write.
- Write crap. Give yourself permission to write a really bad first draft. You can always edit it later, but this permission allows you to do something new. Try to avoid any thoughts about what you are writing. You are just there to propel the pen. Telling yourself it’s okay to write crappy first drafts is incredibly liberating. Try it.
- Go for it. If the first thing that pops into your mind is ridiculous, go for it. If it’s violent, see where it goes. Be open to the unexpected. After all, you didn’t create these thoughts, did you? Our job is to honour them, allow them to come to light.
Going Longer With Your Freewrites
You can also use a meta-freewrite technique to explore longer works. Look at what you’ve written. If a question is generated when you read it, or you are looking for a solution to a problem you see, use it as a prompt for your freewrite. Keep using it, and the questions it generates, to ask yourself to go deeper into the subject. Be open to what comes up.
Crafting prompts can be good fun, and the simplest prompts sometimes reveal the deepest veins of meaning in our stories. If you’ve written something you would like to explore, use a prompt like “What does this story really mean…” or “What I really want to say is…” to get at a deeper meaning.
For instance: A prompt from Natalie Goldberg that can help with your personal history explorations is “I remember…” Continue to write what comes to your memory and every time you hesitate, write again “I remember …” and start again.
Prospect for stories using prompts like “The most scared I ever got was when…” or “The first time I met…” or “The most momentous trip of my life was…” or “When I was a kid we…”
If you want to develop something you’re writing, look for prompts within the writing itself. What jumps out at you? What has “juice” for you when you read it? There’s your next prompt. Put it at the top of your page and go for it.
So, now we’ve come to the end of our Writer’s Blog Short Story Week, you may be thinking of composing a short story of your own. But how exactly do you go about doing so? To help you out, here is a basic ‘How To’ guide for anyone considering turning their talents to the wonderful genre of the short story.
1. Know what a short story is
Before diving into any genre, it is important to understand the basics of that genre. Most definitions of a short story focus on the following key points:
- A short story is a prose narrative
- Is shorter than a novel
- Deals with limited characters
- Aims to create a single effect
Other definitions, however, are more concerned with word count, stating that a short story may range anywhere between 1,000 – 30,000 words. Anything over 30,000 words, however, tends to be considered ‘too long’, and crosses into the classification of a novella.
But how important are word counts? Well, if you are looking to have your work published, the word count can be extremely important. For instance, most literary magazines prefer their short story entries to be kept brief, and even stipulate a limit for all their submissions. You should always check the submission guidelines of any magazine you wish to send your work to. These guidelines can generally be found on the magazine’s website.
It is also crucial that you never underestimate the importance of reading. Read the form you hope to write in. To see a list of Classic short stories you could check out yesterday’s post.
2. Develop an Idea
Once you know a bit about the genre, and what is expected from a short story, you can begin creating one of your own. As with any fiction writing, this all begins with an idea. But where does a writer find ideas? When faced with this, very question, Neil Gaiman stated:
“You get ideas from daydreaming… You get ideas from asking yourself simple questions. The most important of the questions is just, What if…?”
With this answer, Gaiman highlights the importance of the writer’s imagination in the process of developing a story. But what if your imagination needs a little prompting? Although daydreaming can be an excellent tool in crafting a story, sometimes our imaginations need a little external stimulus to help light the spark. So what sort of external stimulus can be helpful in sparking a good short story idea?
Polite society will tell us it is wrong to listen in on other people’s conversations, but a sly bit of eavesdropping every now and then can be quite invaluable for a writer.
The people in the world around us – whether they be on a train to the city, on the phone in the supermarket, or enjoying a family barbeque in the park – provide an exceptional case study of human character and behaviour. By acting as an observer of daily life, and fusing together what we see and hear with our own imaginations, we can come up with all sorts of story ideas we may otherwise have never considered.
An example of this practice can be seen in ‘Rest Stop’; a short story by Stephen King, published in his collection, ‘Just After Sunset’. This story follows the experience of a writer who stops at a service station to use the bathrooms, only to find himself witness to a case of domestic violence. The writer then faces the tough decision of whether to play hero and intervene, or whether to save himself from a possible beating of his own, hop back in his car, and drive away.
In the notes provided by Stephen King in the back of the book, he admits to this idea sparking from an experience of his own, in which he stopped at a rest stop and overheard a couple engaged in a very heated argument. King writes:
“They both sounded tight and on the verge of getting physical. I wondered what in the world I’d do if that happened…”
In other words, King started with an overheard conversation (or, in this case, argument), then used his imagination to ask himself ‘What if…?’ – ‘What if the argument developed into a physical fight? What would a writer, much like myself, do in this situation?’. ‘Rest Stop’ is therefore an excellent example of how the odd bit of eavesdropping can help fuel our imaginations, and allow us to create an engaging short story.
Hint: Use a memory/experience of your own
‘Rest Stop’ is also a good example of how we can use our own experiences/memories as a starting point for a short story. Possibly the greatest advantage of this technique is the degree of tangibility it lends to our work.
For example, in ‘Rest Stop’, King is able to create a detailed description of the setting by providing a strong vision of the missing children posters, tacked up all over the walls. This attention to finer detail, pulled from King’s own memory, allows the reader to feel as though they are seeing the service station for themselves. It is more realistic, more tangible, more believable.
Of course, any fictional setting/event can be made to feel this way with the inclusion of finer detail, but starting with a memory is great practice. Once you can describe how something looked, felt, smelt, sounded or tasted in your own experience, the better you will be able to describe the fictional experiences of your characters. Try searching your mind for a very clear memory of your own. What did you see? What did you feel? What did you smell? Now use this memory to construct a short story by throwing in the ‘What if?’ question. For example, ‘What if this character had a similar experience?’
Hint: Read the daily papers
They say fact is stranger than fiction, and in no place is this more evident than in the daily news. Like eavesdropping, newspapers and news reports can also provide writers with an interesting case study of real life. Try collecting some news clippings of extraordinary stories, and imagine a character of your own witnessing these events. How does it affect them? How are they involved? Does their experience challenge what was reported in the clipping? Perhaps experiment with different points of view – try writing the story from the varying perspectives of those involved.
Hint: Make a playlist
Another excellent prompt for the imagination is music. For example, try listening to a random song on your ipod. What mood does the song create? What images come to mind? What story do the lyrics tell? Now try writing a story around one or more of these elements.
Hint: General writing prompts
If none of these techniques seem appealing to you, the Internet is full of writing prompts that may ignite your creativity. For example, a list of writing prompts may be found at Writer’s Digest, and Creative Writing Now.
Sometimes just playing around with ideas can actually lead to some of our best work. Before writing your story, try composing a few ‘test’ paragraphs. Use these paragraphs to trial a number of different voices, styles and points of view (POV). Try writing in first person, then try writing in third person, or possibly even second person (although be wary that second person narratives are rare, and difficult to do well). Experiment with different tenses. Change things around and try to find the style, voice, POV, and so on, best suited for the story you wish to create. For more on finding the right tense/POV/etc for your story, try here.
Another great way to experiment is to try free-writing. Free-writing, much like stream of consciousness, is high speed, continuous writing, free from planning or self-editing/censorship. This type of writing can unlock phrases and ideas, hidden away in our subconscious, that may otherwise prove elusive due to our tendency to over-think.
Despite the previous point about overthinking, there is also something to be said about the benefits of planning. Once you have a solid idea for your work, it is a good idea to plan your story. Although some writers work better with plans than others, mapping out and structuring your ideas can be a highly beneficial process. American novelist, John Gardner once wrote:
“Writing a novel is like heading out over the open sea in a small boat. If you have a plan and a course laid out, that’s helpful.”
Although short stories may not seem as epic an expedition as a novel, the overall structure of the genres are not so different. Like the novel, a short story is a form of prose narrative, expected to contain a beginning, middle and end. Thus, just as it is helpful to plan a novel, it is also helpful to plan a short story.
Essentially, what a plan does is provide us with a ‘print preview’ of our work. It allows us to see clearly any kinks or problems we may need to smooth over before we commit our story to its final form. (For more on the benefits of planning, read this Writer’s Edit’s article on How To Plan Your Book.) You can plan in whatever way is most helpful to you – whether this be mind-mapping, jotting down your key plot points, writing character profiles, or mapping out the order of events. You may also want to try planning your story using Freytag’s Five Stage Story Structure as a guide.
5. Know the Specifics
If you are composing your short story with the hope of publishing, it is important to take care of the finer details. For instance, who are you writing for? Some writers set out to write a short story with a particular magazine or publication already in mind. However, it is often best not to write this way, unless you have already been commissioned to do so. Writing with a sole publication in mind could not only restrict/limit your story, but could also be potentially devastating if the publication in question decides not to publish. Instead, it is often far better to write the story that feels right for you, then search for magazines that suit the tone/feel of your work, rather than the other way around. In other words, be true to yourself, write what you’re passionate about, and eventually, you and your story will find the right home.
Nevertheless, it is important to demonstrate to any magazine you submit to that you are familiar with their publication, and their style. Before you submit anywhere, ensure you subscribe to the publication, or at least thoroughly read a number of past editions. Make sure that your story suits the publication, and be ready to convince the editors exactly why your story would be suited to their magazine.
But knowing who you’re writing for is about more than knowing the magazines you approach. It is also about knowing your audience. What genre does your story fall under? What themes/issues does it deal with? Once you know who your story will appeal to, you will be better equipped to find that ‘home’ your story is looking for. For example, if your protagonist is a teenager, and your story explores issues of coming of age/crossing the threshold into adulthood, chances are your story falls under ‘young adult fiction’. You should therefore direct your story to a magazine with a largely young adult readership. If, however, your young protagonist happens to be a skilled wizard/dragon-rider, fighting a war against evil goblins, your story’s ultimate genre is likely fantasy, and you may be better off researching which publications appeal most to fantasy readers.
Identifying your target audience, and finding ways to direct your work towards them will provide your story with the ideal environment and conditions to flourish, so always try to keep them in mind.
6. Write it!
Once you have your idea, you’ve played around with different ways of writing, and you have a clear plan for your plot/structure, you can begin to write. Often getting started is the hardest step, so try not to put this off for too long. If you need help, refer to your plan or use some of your experiments as a starting point. Remember, you can always redraft and/or edit later if you are not happy with anything you put down. The most important thing is to get started, and the rest will follow.
7. Don’t Rush
One of the biggest mistakes writers can make is to become so focussed on the end game of getting published, that they don’t take the time to perfect what they’re writing. Often the result of this is an obvious sloppiness to the work, possible plot-holes, contradictions, inconsistences, and an overall rushed feeling that doesn’t do justice to the story being told. So take your time. Don’t rush. If you want to get your story out there, create yourself a writing habit.
Set aside time each day that is purely for writing. To maximise your productivity, limit your distractions during this time. Shut off Facebook, find a room with no television (or a quiet spot outdoors), switch your phone to silent, and just get as much writing done as you possibly can. By making this a regular habit, you can afford your writing the time and focus it deserves.
Once you have a completely finished draft on your hands, you can begin to edit. Editing is an extremely crucial process that allows us to mould our work into its best, possible shape. It is through editing that we ensure our writing is as effective as possible. For any writer, the first step to editing is to edit your own work, however, when editing your work, it is also important to consider the feedback of others. Try taking your story along to a writing group. Writing groups are a great place to seek constructive feedback from other writers. This feedback, along with the workshop nature of these groups, can prove absolutely invaluable when revising your work. During the editing process, it is also highly beneficial to consult the advice of a beta reader. A beta reader can serve as a proof-reader, check the story for effectiveness, plot-holes, consistency, believability, and so on. If you do not already know an ideal beta reader, writing groups are a great place to meet them, so get out there!
Once you have edited, re-edited, and edited some more, you should finally find your story is in a form you are happy to call ‘finished’. Now you’re ready to try submitting your work to the magazines/publications you have properly researched as suitable for your story. This can be a daunting task, and you may well face a number of knock-backs, but if you persevere, you will eventually find that you have a published copy of your short story, right there in front of you, and for all to see.