Changing the goal posts!

At the start of the year I set myself 4 writing goals. The first one was to complete a draft of a short story collection by the end of April. It is now the start of June, so how did I do?

To help improve my short story writing, I took an online course which started in January. I can’t put into words how helpful the course was. I learnt so many techniques, was able to receive and give feedback to other people who were doing the same course and managed to write a great short story by the end of it.

During the course I realised my ambition to publish a collection of short stories (either by self-publishing or via more traditional routes) was completely unrealistic. The instructor explained to us that Roald Dahl considered himself to have had a good writing year if he wrote 4 good stories a year. Four? Wow! My estimation of trying to crank out a 40’000 word collection of stories in a couple of months was off target. If the genuis who wrote some of my most favourite childhood books was aiming for 4 a year, I should probably aim for 4 in my lifetime. I’m going to have to rethink this.

In more positive news, the instruction also said the best way to have a collection of short stories published is to enter competitions. Agents often look at the shortlists of competitions seeing who is the next hot talent. That way the agent comes to you rather than you spend the time trying to find one who wants to work with you.

So, like all great plans, I have decided to refocus. I have decided to focus entering my stories in competitions for the time being. I am sure agents won’t end up fighting to sign me up for a book deal but you can never tell in this funny planet we are living on. The worse that could happen is me ending up with a collection of good short stories that I’m proud of and want to self-publish.

As I had been ferociously writing at the start of the year in order to meet my self-imposed deadline, I do have a lot of good material that I can edit, rework and think about which I can hopefully enter into some competitions later this work. The editing and reworking is the hardest part but it is fast becoming my favourite part of writing.

The first draft of writing the story is possibly the part I dislike the most. Not only am I faced with a blank page but also I have no idea what is going to happen. I’m telling myself the story in this phase, finding out if there even is a story. With editing and reworking I’m focusing on the minute details of the story, thinking about what the reader is going to be thinking and feeling when they read it back and making it more entertaining. I feels like I’m crafting something rather than fumbling around in the bathroom with the lights off.

That will be my goal for the rest of the year: to get some of my poorly written first drafts moulded and ready to be sent into competitions. I have already made two submissions of my writing this year: one to a website for women who write comedy and one to an international short story writing competition. Fingers crossed for those and the other competitions I enter this year.

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