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Here are some guidelines I live by as a writer.
* Write every damn day. It might be short, it might not have anything to do with the work you’re currently working on (if you’re working on something), it might suck, it might amount to nothing; the important thing is that you write. Keep your creativity juices going.
* Use negativity to your advantage. Whether it’s a bad experience, moodiness, a chip on your shoulder, pure unadulterated hate, a shitty day, pour it on the page. Write angry… just edit beforehand if you’re going to show it to people. Write to ease your mind. I can tell you from experience that writing is helpful when you’re going through rough times: It doesn’t solve your problems, but it helps sorting out thoughts and gain perspective. According to an article in The New York Times, researchers have found evidence that writing can change behavior and improve happiness. I recently read another article called “Writing Through Depression” by Jordan Rosenfeld.
The one positive thing about negativity is that it will make you more empathetic as a person, and more understanding and creative as a writer; not immediately, but once you’ve given it some thought.
* Take a break from The Book. Sometimes it’s refreshing to work on something other than your novel/novella. Try writing prompts, compose a flash fiction, write a short story. The way I see it, if you solely focus on that Big One for too long, it’s dangerously close to getting tunnel vision. Like comic relief in a story, you the author need to create something just for fun.
An Argument for Writing Short Stories by Emily Harstone
Many novelists got their start publishing short stories in literary journals. It is a great way to start out. However that is not why short stories are so important.
I can tell that right now, particularly among younger writers, but older ones as well, the general opinion is not in favor of short stories. This is true even though Alice Munroe won the Nobel Prize last year for a collection of short stories. However, as a writer who is improving and growing, the point is not to have the most readers, but to produce the best writing you can. The point is to learn.
For me writing a short story is a powerful thing. You can do it all at once or in a matter of days, so it is much more manageable than a novel in terms of time. Like Bradbury says, you could write 52 in a year and learn a lot from that process, even writing 25 can teach a writer a lot of lessons.
The great thing about a short story is that it is self contained. It can teach you so much about plot and character development in a short period of time. It is much harder to write a fully contained plot and well developed characters in three thousand words, instead of in three hundred pages. Writers who are serious about improving their craft should write short stories, even if they are never planning to publish even one of them.
* Kick ass, take names. If you want to send a message, be subtle, use metaphors, use scenarios. Don’t use the names of real people, but describe them the way you remember them. When it comes to vengeance, only you need to know about it. Karma will take care of the rest.
* Sharing is caring. Don’t just show your work to your colleagues. Two of my professors have actually said it’s good to also show it to folks who aren’t writers. After all, you’re planning to sell this to the masses so getting feedback from anyone else may offer different perspective.