unqualified writing advice – branching out

I’ve been thinking about doing something a bit different.

For the past year (I may be short a month or two, but it is close to a year), I have been focusing on writing short stories. I’ve actually managed to write quite a few of them within that time.

If you read this blog regularly, you may have read that I have a nightly goal of around 250-500 words. I try for 500 every night, but sometimes it will not get there.

So, in a year I have pushed out a good group of stories. Not all of them are “publishable” and some of them are actually pretty bad. I think that’s okay. Practice is important and those stories, despite being bad, taught me what not to do in subsequent efforts.

I’m no master of the short story, but I want to spread my wings a bit and try something totally new.

A novella.

I’ve tried a few novels. They never really stuck. I end up getting lost in the length and scope of my ideas. I let myself fail in these attempts. I’m aware of it and I think it’s okay. But I want to try something that pushes me beyond where my normal limits have been.

A novella is about 20,000 words or a little more. When I google it, I’m seeing anywhere from 10,000 to 40,000.

My stories normally top out at around 5,000-6,000 words. On rare occasions they are longer. More often they tend to be shorter.

I’ve never really tried to sustain a narrative for that long. So, I think this will be a big stretch for me. I’m seeing a few complications.

Short story production cannot stop. I have such a strong cadence with my stories. I like writing them because I can finish them relatively quickly. I usually let them sit for awhile, then I’ll edit a bunch in a couple of days and start sending them out.

That feeling of completion and accomplishment is important. It keeps the machine greased and running smoothly.

But I know I need to slow down that production to take on a longer project. That scares me.

I don’t know how exactly I am going to break up the time. Sometimes, I try to write concurrently. I’ll do 250 words on one project and 250 on another. Sometimes, that will work. Most times, it leads to a bit of burnout. I don’t know if I can juggle two things like that.

I’m wondering about a potential split week. Something like, Monday and Tuesday are short story days. Wednesday and Friday are novella days. Saturday /Sunday is a bit of both. If you are wondering, I take Thursday’s off.

I don’t know. It’s a challenge.

I’m also trying some new techniques with the novella. I’ve never been someone who outlines. Articles, academic papers, and stories. I usually wing it and see where it goes. Now, I am feeling the pressure to have a plan on what I want to do and how/when I need to do it.

I will say that the outline is rough. I’ve essentially written out the beginning, middle, and end with some descriptive adjectives. In no way have I laid out every corner of the narrative. But I’m trying to be a bit more deliberate. I’m hoping this will help me keep the story in focus.

I suppose I haven’t given you much advice. Perhaps I’ve shown you what I meant when I labeled these articles as “unqualified.” If there is any lesson, it is to be brave in taking chances with your work and routine.

I like my routine and, yes, I could just keep writing stories for another year. But I need to branch out here. I need something new with a different challenge. Growth means change. So, yes. Start somewhere and create a routine that works.

However, you also need to know when to break that routine in favor of continually pushing yourself to learn and grow.

I’ll try to update on what happens. But I don’t know myself. We’ll see.


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