Wednesday, June 4, 2014

IWSG: Chase the Dream or Let it Go?


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I love writing stories and flash fiction, but I've always wanted to write novels - back when I was a kid, back before the Internet and the explosion of self-publishing options and all the opportunities we have today. 

But I struggle with writing novels now more than I ever did. And I don't know why.

It's not writer's block - I've got ideas. I've got time, a dedicated space, support from my husband and great people (I'm looking at you all!) who will probably - hopefully - read what I write. I keep circling back to the idea that maybe I'm just not meant to write full length books. 

I am meant to write. That I know for sure. But maybe I should just focus on stories, on flash, on some other form of writing I haven't come across yet? Maybe I should stop chasing the thirty year old dream of writing novels? Maybe it wasn't meant to be caught? The world has changed, publishing has changed, I've changed, so maybe that dream should, too? 

I wish I knew. 

78 comments:

  1. I believe that some people are not meant to write novels, as you alluded to. I think that some people's talents lie in poetry, short stories, flash fiction, etc. And some people, like me, do not possess writing skills ni any of those LOL

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    1. Maybe you don't have those writing skills but you certainly have blogging skills - your posts always make me think. :)

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  2. I think you should keep chasing it! You are so talented that I know your novels would be amazing. But if you're not feeling the novels right now perhaps you should put them on the back burner and focus on whatever writing you are enjoying. Maybe novellas or novelettes would be a great bridge for you? As you said, publishing options have changed so much. Maybe it doesn't have to be either/or as far as short stories & novels. Whatever you decide to do I know your stories will continue to be wonderful, whatever length they are.

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    1. Julie, thank you so much. I really appreciate that.

      And I'm totally open to writing novellas, etc. I'm a little worried though that if I keep putting those longer works on the back burner, I'll never write them and that I'll regret it.

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  3. I agree with Julie, but remember, your dream is allowed to change/evolve over time and that's ok. I've finally had to give up one of my dreams and put my first ms on the shelf. That doesn't mean I'm giving up, it just means that it's not the story I want to write anymore. But I'm still hanging onto it because, you never know, maybe one day the time will be right and I'll be able to go back to it and finish writing that story. :)

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    1. I've got more "closet" manuscripts than I care to admit. :) Some will never see the light of day. Some might, after huge overhauls. Maybe one day the time will be right for those…?

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  4. I too was a short story writer for many years. For a long time, I wanted to write novels but just sucked at it. I had to write maybe a dozen novels before I figured out how I write best. And adopting the 7 point story structure has REALLY helped me.

    Every chapter in my novels is a short story, so that's how I approach it.

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    1. I like the idea of treating every chapter as a short story. I've tried it once or twice, but I struggle with it. I think it's because in my head I KNOW it's not really a story, that it's part of a bigger picture…and that's what overwhelms me.

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  5. Keep writing the short stuff and one day an idea will take hold that expands farther - and next thing you know, you're writing a novel!

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  6. I agree with Julie that you should write what makes you happy. And if writing a full length novel or novella is something you really want to do - just go for it - start with the first page and before you know it, it'll be growing and growing. :)

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  7. Madeline, you are so talented that I am sure your stories, whether they be flash fiction or full length novels will be simply amazing. Insecurities are always going to be there, you just have to ignore them. And when you need some encouragement, just give a shout and we all will be there.

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    1. Thank you, Rachna. I really appreciate that. Ignoring the insecurities is so difficult. It's definitely something I need to work on.

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  8. I think you should keep the dream because I would really love to read a novel written by you. (Yes, I am completely being selfish here.)

    You're a brilliant storyteller, in whatever form it happens to come. So write what makes you happy (or think will make you happy) and the rest will fall into place.

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    1. Oh, MJ, thank you! And I love your kind of selfish. :)

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  9. What's holding you back? Short attention span? Plotting problems? Maybe if you figure that out, you can find a way around it.

    If it's plotting a longer work, check out Jami Gold's 'worksheets for writers.'

    Good luck!
    IWSG #215 until Alex culls the list again.

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    1. That's part of the problem - I don't know what's holding me back. I've tried sorting through all the reasons and excuses, tried to come up with solutions, etc and still I'm stuck. I'll probably have to go through them again…but maybe from another direction, take another approach.

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  10. As long as you don't give up, then that dream is a possibility. You can write shorts and flash, then one day, out of the blue, you might crank out that full novel. Maybe it just needs to surprise you. ;)

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  11. You know, you just don't think you have it in you to do. Listen to your first thought, everything else is crap.

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    1. Going with that first thought, going with my gut, would be the best idea…except I'm very good at talking myself out of it.

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  12. It sounds to me like you haven't learned how YOU write novels yet. I had a LOT of started books for a long time (one of them probably 80K words) but I couldn't seem to get anywhere with them. For ME the lesson came with fan fiction--I had a Harry Potter forum and some crazy theories--one about Snape's mother--and I decided to write it. There were TWO differences in this situation that had never been true before. I KNEW the ending (we all know Snape, right?) and I had readers clamoring for the next installment. The former taught me that for ME to not flounder, I have to have a good ending (I don't always stick with it, but I need that direction) and that writing a novel isn't the burst of inspiration sprint that a short story may be--it is a dedicated 'so many words every single day' marathon. (This makes total sense, yes? but without readers pushing me, I might have just dropped it and not GOTTEN to the satisfaction of writing the end). You may have totally different tricks, but I would suggest finding a couple people who love your idea that you trust to actually BUG YOU for the next chapter.

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    1. Thanks, Hart! I think I'm getting closer to figuring out what my novel writing process is. Kind of. And I do like your idea of having people bug me for the next scene, the next chapter. :)

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  13. The good thing about writing is it doesn't matter what you write, you're still a writer! So no matter which path you choose, you can still write ab be successful. Sit down and just write. Whatever comes out is what's in your heart:)

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    1. Oh, I know I'm definitely a writer. It's a huge part of who I am. :)

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  14. You certainly have a talent for short fiction. I think dreams do have to change as the world around us changes.

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    1. Thanks, Susan. I used to think it was bad that dreams change but the older I get, the more I see that it's sometimes necessary.

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  15. Your future novel will be amazing. Yes, I know what I just said and what you just said. BUT I think you have it in you and maybe fear is what's holding you back. Work on what you need to right now, when your novel ideas keep nagging at you, you will get to it. Of course, I'd rather say just drink a couple glasses of wine (or pick your poison) and write to your heart's content without care if it will take you anywhere or not, revise a couple times after, and then decide it really isn't for you. I know I don't need to tell you anything you don't already know, but I'll keep my fingers crossed you decide NOT to let go of the full-length books dream. :)

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    1. I definitely think fear has something to do with it. Not sure what I'm afraid of exactly though. Maybe those glasses of wine will help me figure it out. :)

      And thank you for keeping your fingers crossed…but only do it if you can continue to write yourself!

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  16. If you can write short stories, you can write novels. I actually think you're in better shape than me, which is the reverse. I can write novels all day long, but struggle mightily to write short stories. Short stories require a tight focus I lack. With novels, you have time to wander around and explore characters and subplots more. Maybe you feel intimidated at the thought of all those words? I say bite the bullet and start writing your dream novel. It's waiting for you!

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    1. I definitely do feel intimidated by all those words, by all that meandering. Isn't it funny how we can "envy" others' skills? :)

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  17. I vote chase the dream! You have it in you and you are an amazing writer! If for nothing else, do it to prove to yourself that you can. And of course we would all want to read it! What do you have to lose?

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    1. What do I have to lose? The little bit of my sanity I still have left…. :)

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  18. Oooh! You're super great at writing flash fiction. Maybe you could write a bunch of flash fiction with a similar thread running through each, and then compile them as a novel with connecting scenes! Then you get the best of both worlds. :D

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  19. There are a bunch of great writers who never made the jump to full length novels. i don't think you can force it, i think eventually the right idea will come., probably when you stop stressing about it.

    mood
    Moody Writing

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    1. It's the trying not to stress about it that makes me stress even more….

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  20. My mom is better with short stories than novels. I agree--novels are a HUGE commitment. Why not focus on publishing a novel that's a short story compilation?

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  21. I started off as a short story writer - I never thought I could write anything else - but slowly my word count is increasing. My advice is focus on the story you want to tell and it will dictate the length... But then, I've never been a writer who writes for the market - I squeeze my work into it :-)

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    1. While I tend to like the framework of small word counts that flash offers, I do let the subject of the story be whatever it wants. :)

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  22. Why not do a book of short stories? I too had the dream of writing a book since I was 10-years-old. What got me started, finally was creating an outline. That was just the structure I needed.

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    1. I've done a collection of flash fiction already, and I'll probably do at least one more. I really did enjoy that. :)

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  23. I was going to say something like Jay did until I saw you'd tried it. Then I saw Stephanie's idea. Sounds like your short story compilation could involve one or two main characters in separate stories. If they encounter similar challenges, working against bigger odds each time, sooner or later, their problems might connect to a bigger one, and they'll have to work together to solve it. Best case, you might end up with a novel. Worst case, you'll have a theme for your short story collection. I hope that makes an iota of sense.

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    1. It definitely made sense. :) I know there's a few books out there that are linked short stories, a hybrid of a novel and a collection.

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  24. Oh, now I see Loni said almost the same thing. Doh!

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    1. Hey, I'll take all the help I can get. No worries!

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  25. I always wanted to write a novel...but it sat squarely in my "Someday box" and in truth, I didn't think I could do it. I'm still not sure I can. But someday arrived, and I started writing my brains out and then one day, I decided to give it a try. My first goal with my first attempt was to get to the end. My goal with my second attempt was to get it in condition to send out to agents. I'm now working on my third attempt, in which I'm trying to incorporate everything I learned during the first two attempts. I guess what I'm trying to say is, why not give it a try? Take one of those amazing shorts you write and flesh it out into a story. You'll know, probably soon enough, if you still want to be a novelist. But, regardless of the outcome, if you get one under the belt, you can scratch that off your bucket list. You will have written a novel.

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    1. I used to write novels all the time - just look at all the completed mss in my closet. :) But it's been quite awhile since I wrote a complete draft, never getting to the actual end. Hmm, maybe I should make that my first goal - just get to the end of the story then go from there.

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  26. I hear you. Same here, always wanted to write the 'great' novel. But, after getting some ideas started, they just don't interest me anymore. I've come to find I am better at essays and short memoirs. I don't read a lot of fiction, preferring true stories, so that may be my problem. Although, my fan fiction story has been, in my opinion, a success, because I was so passionate about the characters. I love your short pieces! Keep trying all forms of writing...something will grab you and you'll be off and running with it! :) My best to you!

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    1. Thank you! And good luck with your nonfiction and your fan fiction. Being so passionate about characters is one of my favorite parts of being a writer. :)

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  27. I'm a little late chiming in, but I'm a big fan of taking a short story and running with it. Find one you've written whose characters you love and see if you can write a continuation - I'll bet you can.

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  28. You're right, we do get stuck in those old dreams sometimes. I always wanted to write great short stories, but it turned out novels work better for me. We need to accept the fact that we change as we grow, so it's reasonable to expect our dreams and goals to change as well.

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    1. I get stuck on the idea that changing the dream means giving up the dream, and I hate to give up. Changing my perspective is something I need to work on.

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  29. If you are called to write, then just write. If the story calls to be novel-length then go with that, but if you are only called to write shorter fiction, then go for it. Writing 'to get published' will only sap the joy out of writing.

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    1. As much as I want my work to be read, I don't write just get published. I've had the joy sapped before and it wasn't fun.

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  30. Chase the dream, build up your foundations, and then the walls, and then the towers! You can do it! Your writing is intense, gripping, and beautiful! Start with a novella, or a series of novellas, maybe. You have so many good ideas.
    Whatever you write, I look forward to reading it! :)

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  31. I'm in the same boat as you.
    I love my flash fiction, but would love to write something longer.
    But I think that for me, a novella/novelette would be the way to go. Not sure if I can write a 50 000K+ novel.

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  32. I think you should keep trying, but there's nothing wrong with not writing novels! I do think we have forms that suit us best. I struggle with everything! These days, with self publishing, there's no limit on what you can do. Traditional publishers would not take on a collection of shorts from an unknown author, but now you can do that and more. What about a collection of longer stories ("novellettes", although that term always reminds me of a napkin!) that maybe have some interlinking themes or characters? That could be really interesting. Or one story told from multiple POV. I hope you do get to write that novel, but go with what feels good to you and don't beat yourself up!

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    1. But I'm so good at beating myself up! :)

      And now I'm going to think about a napkin whenever I see the word novelette....

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  33. Many years ago, I actually had the opposite problem. I could write novels, and kept getting ideas for novels, but I could never write a short story. I used to believe short stories wasn't in my range of talent, until once day I got the idea for one. Then I got ideas for several. Just like with any form of writing, patience is key. We should never push for ideas or creativity. Focus on your flash fiction and short stories, and when you least expect it, you'll get an idea that you cant turn into a novel. Besides, you flash fiction is AMAZING!! :)

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    1. Thanks, Chrys! And you're right about patience being key. I wish I had more of it! :)

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  34. l think you know the answer. But if you are still open to another, here's mine. Write what is natural for you. That's what I'm doing. So far, two shorts published in anthologies. I'm learning about business, and trying to enjoy the journey. :-)

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette

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    1. Good point about writing what's natural for me. And a great reminder about enjoying the journey. :)

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  35. Sometimes, when we're trying to grab that elusive ring, we miss the other ring, right in front of our nose. Maybe the flash and short stories are exactly right for you, Madeline--for now. But who knows what the universe will bring down the road? (I know you'll be ready!)

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    1. Thanks, Cathy. I hope the universe brings success...and chocolate. :)

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  36. Maybe try writing a serial of flash-sized stories and see if it turns into a novel?

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  37. When I graduated from college there was an 82 year old woman graduating alongside me. I was astounded, needless to say, and couldn't help but ask what made her do it. Seems it had been a dream of hers for a looooong time and when the kids were grown and she'd retired she decided it was finally the time. My point is it's absolutely never too late to go after your dream- whether it's now or a decade from now.

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  38. That's a tough one! I used to want to be a picture-book writer, and as I got older, those turned into novels. THEN, I went through a short-story phase.

    I always say never give up on your dreams. Maybe you should try plotting out a novel. Have you done short stories?

    (I saw tortoises, so I subscribed to your blog. hehe)

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    1. I am giving the novel a go! And I'll let the tortoises know they were the real draw for you. :)

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  39. You have to write what feels right for you. Novels aren't better or worse than short stories. They're different things. But if you stick to short stories I suspect you'll surprise yourself and one day realise that this "short story" you're working on is 30K long and only half way through and is, in fact, a novel...

    I'd say don't worry about the labels and categories and write.

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    1. Thanks, Simon. I like the idea of not worrying about labels etc now and just focusing on the writing.

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