There's no end
to the things you might know, depending how far beyond Zebra you go! {Dr. Seuss}

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Letting Go or Holding on

For her Monday post last week, Elizabeth S. Craig of Mystery Writing is Murder wrote about moving on with your writing. She suggests some writers keep working at their rejected manuscripts too long; they’re revising revising revising instead of writing writing writing. Elizabeth says, “A writer writes. It’s the most important part. If you’re using the past tense ‘I’ve written a book,’ then you’re not continuing the process.” She also included an excellent quote by Chris Grabenstein in which he advises you must put away that first and second novel and continue on to the third and fourth. The idea is that with each novel you write, your writing will improve and eventually you’ll have something publishable.
I wholeheartedly agree with Elizabeth’s post. And it got me thinking about what I’m writing now: short stories. My excellent creative writing professor in college suggested we write short stories to get our foot in the publishing door, to have some publishing credits before we query agents and before we try publishing in prestigious magazines (you know, the ones that actually pay well!). Her advice made perfect sense to me, so that’s what I’ve been doing.
But now I’m losing heart in the short story. I like short stories, but I love novels. I think I have a dozen short story collections on my bookshelves. But I know I have hundreds of novels. 
Last November when I participated in and “won” NaNoWriMo (see NaNo’s blog here), it was the happiest I’d been with writing in a long time. I attributed it to the writing community, knowing I was writing a novel at the same time thousands of others were doing so, too. I attributed it to my story because I was writing something I really cared about. I even attributed it to the fact that the holidays were here. What I didn’t consider was that maybe it was the novel writing process itself that made me so happy. I’d written novels before NaNoWriMo, but I never completed them. This time, I was serious about writing a novel, and it seemed to make all the difference.
I’ve always wanted to be an author, a novelist. Maybe it’s time to let go of the short stories and delve into the novel ideas I have? I’m just not sure. Part of me wants to, but another part of me keeps saying I’ll have a much better chance getting a short story published this year than a novel published in five years. Having short story publishing credits will help me later when I’m ready to publish a novel. 

Giving up altogether on the short story just feels wrong. Perhaps I should get started on my novel ideas and continue working on short stories? Well, this weekend I’ll be doing some soul-searching for sure! 
Share with me!
How do you know when to let go of what you’re writing or to hold on a little longer? How do you know when it’s time to move on to something else? Do you ever know, or is it just trial and error? Anyone else currently doing some soul-searching over their writing?

20 comments:

Christine Fonseca said...

This is such a great topic - and a theme in the blogosphere today! I think you need to be writing new stuff somewhat regularly, you know. I am a single focus kind of girl...so I wrote, edited and am querying my novel. AND I am wrting my new one. That way, it'll be ready to query if this one does not get picked up...you know??? I find I miss writing if I stay away too long.

Palindrome said...

I think you should keep writing no matter what. When I'm finished with the first draft of my current ms, I plan on moving right into the next one. No stopping. I think you need to keep moving forward with your writing. There are so many authors out there who get their fifth book published, not always the first one written. And if you only work on one, what if an agent loves your voice but is not a fan of that particular story? You got to have more than one to show them, having more options is not a bad thing.

Bluestocking said...

I too think it's good to have a number of irons in the fire so to speak. Whether it's novels or short stories, the variety is good to have at your disposal if you get bored or burned out on a particular story.

I wouldn't give up on the short story. They are a great way to practice your craft and are not as time consuming as a novel. That said, you must write a story of your heart, regardless of whether it is short or novel-length.

Alexandra Shostak said...

Novel writing is most definitely my great love when it comes to writing. I LIKE writing poetry, I sort of kind of tolerate writing short stories (I've never liked reading them and I've never liked writing them--go figure) but I INCANDESCENTLY LOVE writing novels.

I'm on my third novel now, and it's the one I plan to query with. I gave up on my first two because they had such a feel of "beginner novelist" to them. I actually got a whole boatload of rejections for them before I realized they were done, but I DID realize they were done, and I didn't continue to revise after that point.

I actually think it's a really good idea to get some short stories published before trying to get an agent (if I could write a decent one, I would) so you should stay on that track, definitely. But there's no reason you can't also be working on the novel that will get you an agent at the same time! :)

Jayne said...

Hm. I think it depends what story is currently in your heart? Mostly I plunge headlong into the long novel as those are the stories that want to be told, but then I rue that I have no short story credits. I find I can only work on one at a time - but I think the most important thing is to finish whatever story you are working on to the best of your ability, and not leave too many hanging!

Tahereh said...

so true! i love your posts, laura -- always so helpful!!

i think this might even be slightly subjective -- knowing when to dive in and when to pull back. sometimes you just have to trust your gut.

or at least.. that's how i do it. lol.

great post!

Zoe C. Courtman said...

Ah, SUCH a great topic. For me, I worked and worked on a project for a couple of years - then I just couldn't stomach it anymore. Today, I know how I could make the novel better - but I STILL can't stomach it. So, it festers. But the new WIP is nearly done, and I'm excited about the next one, too. So, I guess it's just a feeling (yanno, a big, hurking flood of revulsion) that lets me know it's time to step away from the story :D

Steena Holmes said...

Exactly what I needed to read today! Thank you!

T.J. Carson said...

Go for the novel! It's even more fulfilling when you complete one! Short Stories are good for quick money but if you're feeling passionate bout novels.. DO IT! I actually just started a challenge, you might be interested in it!

Sandy Shin said...

If it has always been your dream to be a novelist, I would advise dropping the short stories and picking up the novels. Having short story writing credits is definitely not required for publishing, especially in children's publishing industry. And while both short stories and novels can teach you how to write, there are some things you can only learn by writing the novel.

Good luck!

Talli Roland said...

Oh, I so agree with this. I've seen writers actually become tortured over their MS - and I kept thinking MOVE ON! It's not the end of the world - it's just one MS along the way.

Laura Marcella said...

Christine- It might keep the creativity flowing and keep me from feeling burned out if I'm working on different things. Thanks for the suggestion!

Palindrome- Oooh, yes, I have heard of agents liking an author but not that particular story. So great point about having more than one story available!

Bluestocking- I've been trying to catch up pn everyone's blog posts this week, and I just saw your Monday one (I think that was the day?) when you listed all your wips. Wow! That's admirable!

Alexandra- Thanks for the encouragement! I love the novel, too. And good for you for realizing your first two novels were "practice" novels. Sounds like you're definitely on the right track!

Jayne- You're right about that. Finishing is probably the most important thing!

Tahereh- Thank you! Hmm, I do question my gut feelings sometimes. I think it's time to just go with it! Thanks for the push! :)

Zoe- That kind of revulsion is definitely a big, nasty sign to step away, lol! Maybe it (and you) just needs time to breathe. Good luck!

Steena- Glad to hear it, and you're welcome!

T.J.- Oooh, a challenge! I saw on you're blog that you're planning on writing 2 books this summer. Is that what you mean?

Sandy- Oh, thanks! You definitely gave me some things to think about. :)

Talli- And I know you know what you're talking about! You wrote a few novels and now you'll be published next year. :) Thanks for the reminder it can be done!

Cat Woods said...

Great topic. I always have one novel length WIP going, several edits marinating and other writing on the side--newsletter, business, etc....

This is fulfilling on many levels and keeps me practicing all aspects of writing.

Like everything, there needs to be balance. Write what moves you when it moves you and be prepared to take a step in a new direction if need be.

Switching modes of writing or even genres without a publication in between doesn't mean failure. It just means you haven't found your niche yet.

Good luck soul searching!

Jemi Fraser said...

That's a tough question! I did put one ms to the side because I don't think I can make it edgy enough for the current market. I love the characters and the storyline, but right now it's not a good fit. So I think I'll just hang on to it for a bit and see how things go.

Shelley Sly said...

Thanks for writing this post, I totally sympathize with you. I agree with the others that say it's a subjective topic, and everyone's situation is different.

I've written 2 novels (plus a major rewrite of Book #1 that almost counts as a third book) and stuck to them forever, hoping either one of them would be The One. But both books are hard to place in the market. So I began writing a third (completely different) book, but I still have betas looking over one book and I'm outlining a fourth book for fun. I haven't quite given up on any of these, but I'm not pouring all of my energy into one book, only to have it go nowhere. Does that make sense?

Best of luck with whichever path you choose to take!

Laura Marcella said...

Cat- Thanks for your encouraging comments! Great ideas, too. :)

Jemi- I do that, too. Sometimes a story needs to set aside for a little while, so I work on something else. It's good to let our writing breathe every now and then!

Shelley- Yes, it does make sense! Either way, you're definitely learning as you go. Good for you for continuing writing different novels while working on your previous novels! Thanks for the wishes, and good luck to you as well!

Merrilee said...

If I find that there's no spark left after the first edit, I move on. Some stories are just too weak to waste further time on, when there are so many more ideas spilling out. And each one is a learning experience! But I always put the effort into finishing a first draft, because you never know where it might go.

Laura Marcella said...

Merrilee- I agree about finishing the first draft. It's so important to get to the end! And you're right that each idea and story is a learning experience!

AchingHope said...

Oh my goodness, yes! I think I've finally decided to let go of one of my novels, which is seriously hard to do. A whole lot of thinking and sighing to do.

Hope you figure everything out :)

Laura Marcella said...

AchingHope- It IS hard to do! But the great thing about writing is we can always come back to the WiPs we let go. Sometimes certain stories need a little space, or WE need the space.