A Short Story Every Month?

I have a decent speaking voice, and I know how to use eye contact; I paid attention in speech class. The question, though, is if I really have something to say, or do I just have to say something?
I have a decent speaking voice, and I know how to use eye contact; I paid attention in speech class. The question, though, is if I really have something to say, or do I just have to say something?

“You can bend my ear
We can talk all day
Just make sure that I’m near
When you’ve really got something to say…” ~Toad the Wet Sprocket

I admit to writing a lot. I don’t claim much of it is great. I think this is common to writing, moreso even than photography. How many times, for instance, do major motion picture scripts get rewritten and rewritten, only to end up being not very good?

At Open Mic Nyte Monday, I suggested the idea of writing a short story every month. I know I could do this, but at what point will I start to repeat myself, bore myself, lose my audience, become a word masturbator?

The "KISS" Rule Applied to Writing...
I prefer to write short stories because I believe, as Shakespeare said, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” I have neither the patience for reading and writing very long pieces, nor do I feel it is fair to ask someone to devote days or weeks to some story of mine that should have taken 20 minutes to ingest. I know there are zillions of people who like to get lost in novels, including my wife, but what could I possibly have to say that would be worth so much of your time?

As I prepared  to read my newest short story, The Crying Girl, I mentioned that my stories tend to be autobiographical. Does this mean I am a stenographer? Am I uncreative, reliving and copying essentially the same story over and over? Many phony writers talk about living life to provide material for stories, but they are usually just putting off writing and making excuses for not having 50 short stories and 12 novels in the bag. Is that me?

Finally, is it the ultimate form of intellectual self-indulgence to write about writing, which this very entry is?

It's absolutely true that I have written literally millions of words in my lifetime, and I can turn a pretty decent sentence. But do I have the narrative to create fiction?
It’s absolutely true that I have written literally millions of words in my lifetime, and I can turn a pretty decent sentence. But do I have the narrative to create fiction?
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5 Comments

  1. Most (if not all) writers, whether they will admit it or not, draw a lot of their material from real life. It might be their in experiences. It might be based on observations of others’ experiences. It doesn’t make them — or you — any less or more creative. It’s using the raw material life gives all of us. Some just choose to use it differently.

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  2. I find myself being very careful when I write – am I writing only to entertain myself, which seems a waste of time, or am I trying to reach (one day) a larger audience? If the latter is true, am I writing something that would be worth someone’s time? I don’t have empirical evidence of this, but I would guess that 80 percent of the books published today are pure crap; most of the popular fiction certainly is. (“Fifty Shades of Gray,” for example, is a terrible piece of writing, yet it sold like hotcakes and inspired three films.) Is the goal to be popular, or to produce great writing that perhaps no one but me will ever see?
    There’s no real answer to this, and it is hard to tell the difference between something worthwhile and something that is sheerly masturbatory. My recommendation is to take a writing course or join a workshop and have other people read and critique your stuff. (This is advice I myself should be taking, of course.)
    Great literature eludes most people; we can’t all be Faulkner or Shakespeare, and it might not even be necessary to try. I find myself writing when I have something I absolutely must say, even if I am only working out my own thoughts for myself.
    I have rarely run across anything written by Richard Barron that wasn’t worth reading, so that’s got to mean something.

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  3. “Finally, is it the penultimate form of intellectual self-indulgence to write about writing, which this very entry is?”

    Ah, I see you’ve read my latest piece of fiction, in which I wrote about writers who write about writing… ;-)

    Left to my own devices, I’m confident I could write a short story every week, and I think a solid 20 percent of them would be worth reading. However, life holds other requirements and obligations.

    “…my stories tend to be autobiographical.”

    Supposedly, Kerouac’s “On The Road” was entirely autobiographical, just with changed names. My stories, on the other hand, are rarely so. I typically write in order to expunge thoughts which would otherwise circulate endlessly.

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  4. “I know there are zillions of people who like to get lost in novels, including my wife, but what could I possibly have to say that would be worth so much of your time?”

    I’ll be you’d have plenty to say, and I’d be willing to give it a read. However, like you, I prefer shorter reads — essays, short fiction, articles, etc.

    Wil said: “I’m confident I could write a short story every week…”

    I’d like to see you try! And I mean that in the best possible way. I’ve enjoyed your previous few stories and can’t wait to read more.

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