Six months ago I started writing a short story. To me, this is a very long time for a short story. I’m accustomed to working on a novel for years, because a novel by its very nature is a long-term commitment. But with short stories, I’ve always handled them one of two ways: finish it in weeks or even days, or not at all.
This particular short story I launched into with exceptional enthusiasm, because it was the inaugural story for a new fantasy world (different from the world of the fantasy novel trilogy I’ve been working on for years).
I had the whole plot worked out, had my cast of characters, knew the ending scene. I had the rules of magic and other world-building essentials already sorted out, because this was a revamping of some fantasy stories and a world I’d created as a kid. Basically, all I had to do was type up a few thousand words. So what happened?
Two things: life, and losing my focus.
The life bit wasn’t a bad thing. There were some changes – good ones – at my jobs, some opportunities came my way for some paid writing, and other stuff. I was excited about all of these changes, but the upshot was that a few months ago my life got suddenly busier and a lot more hectic. So with all of that, plus the novels I was plugging away at and this blog, the short story got pushed to the bottom of the pile.
The main problem, though, was simply that I lost my focus. I blogged at the beginning of this year about how I was going to take my fiction writing more seriously. I’ve been doing the bare minimums (keeping up with submitting installments of my novel to my critique partners, and keeping this blog going), but that’s it. But to be successful – or even to finish something – requires more than bare minimums.
And so, I finally got my rear in gear, I refocused, and I wrote a few thousand words and finished that short story. It’s been a long, rough road – that unfinished project, all mapped out and ready to go but still not done – was starting to really weigh on my mind. There’s nothing like the stress of an unfinished project.
So what did I learn from this long road to a short story? I learned that without focus and intentionality, even the shortest bit of writing can get pushed down in priority and left unfinished. I learned that all it takes is a little discipline to keep a short little tale from becoming a six-month headache.
I learned that if I want to be a writer, then all I have to do is write.