I talk to myself often, I always have. My daydreams are usually narrated. I don’t know if painters or sculptors are allowed to pontificate solo but for a writer it really is expected.
To find answers. That means much of my conversation with myself involves asking questions. Someone once suggested I record my thoughts with a voice recorder so I could write them down later. But that’s not what all of the talk is about. I am having conversations. I don’t know where they will turn, or who is leading. I am both sides but I can play against myself, and win or lose. Nothing gets worked out from a rant, only two sides of a conversation can bring about something new.
That new point, or epiphany, is not something I will forget.
Recently I have made a serious attempt to improve my short story writing. To that end I know I must read as much as I can in the format I wish to write in. I have about six books of short stories I’m actively reading, both literary and genre, and I guess a third type I’ll call literary genre. I decided to keep a master list for myself of all the stories I have read, which will go back as far as I can remember. I also decided to publish a (shorter) list of stories which made an impression on me. The Story List is that diary.
Why work on short stories? There are several reasons, not least the fact that completing stories gains the writer experience faster than writing novels. But as I have grown older it has occurred to me that the short story form has values unique from longer fiction. A writer can experiment without causing a reader too much grief, and a writer can use the form in the classic three act structure similar to a novel. The short story is a flexible thing and I think, could be ready for a new prominence given the world’s ever shrinking attention span.
I am sure there are many pitfalls to avoid while having multiple works in progress but I ran into a specific one several months ago which caused me a great deal of extra work and weakened each story.
I prefer having several projects in mid-stream so I can keep working when nothing comes to mind on my main project. That probably points to other dangers related to maximizing creative time and energy but there is one very concrete issue I discovered.
When I looked across my portfolio of projects it became clear to me I was writing the same story in five different works. When I looked carefully at the main characters and what each work was about I saw the same story. Three novels and two short stories about young aristocrats who rebelled against their station in life. I had not noticed this before because I was so busy jumping from project to project, several of which were not similar.
Once I discovered this I reworked two short stories into one, completely changed one novel, took elements of one of the short stories and added them to another novel, and changed the main character in the third novel, which in turn, changed what that novel was about. There may still be similarities between the works but now they each have unique central problems and different, stronger main characters. So while I was writing and keeping my energy going, there was a great deal of re-work that I would not have needed to do if I had been a little more focused.
I still have many projects but I am now careful when starting a new one to look closely and make sure it can stand alone, to see if it is not part of something I am already working on. I also try not to allow myself to be distracted from my main work quite as often. You simply complete more things more quickly when focused on a single work.