Last January, I had a short story rejected. I know--big deal. All writers get rejections, and I assure you I have had my share. But this was somehow different. It was a story that my heart was invested in. You know, the one you "need" to tell. Only instead of presenting it as non-fiction, I decided to create a fictional piece based on the true story. The editor was kind, and even included a short note that said, "This should be non-fiction." Here's where I went awry, instead of reworking the piece and sending it to another market, I allowed myself to become deflated. I told myself, "What were you thinking? You can't write short stories." So, in my mind there was only one course left--learn how to write short stories. Now since I started writing again in 2012, I've written dozens of short stories, and have had many of them published, but somehow I forgot all of that. So what did I do?
I signed up for a writing course, and when it was done, I took another, and another, and another, and-- you get the idea. Oh sure, I wrote. In fact, I wrote several non-fiction articles, blogged, and I started four different books. The key word being "started." But I was stuck on one tree--learning to write short stories. My off time from homeschooling my granddaughter was spent immersed in on-line courses. By the end of November, I had a bookshelf full of educational trees perse, but no growth in my envisioned forest. After seeing a new book published every year, I was faced with no book for 2017. What a realty check!
That is when I decided to change directions--or sight--and get back to the forest of books demanding attention. December was my proof month. My writers' group made it easy. We chose our goals for 2017, and I decided mine would be to write at least 200 words on a work-in-progress each and every day. Now since I rarely get more than that written because I self-edit my work to death, I set aside the last two days of the month to edit and revise. That meant no editing--just writing. A new concept for me to be sure. But I did it. I wrote 6,724 words in December, then edited over 3,000 of them away. I have to admit it hurt at first. The novel I planned for 2017 will require around 50,000 words, so seeing over 6,000 completed was a writer's high. Cutting them was painful, but in the end I am starting January off with a solid setting, protagonist, plot, and subplot. Plus, I have a complete outline for 25 chapters, and a goal to finish the book by the end of June.
One might say that I have just traded one tree for another, but that isn't true. My forest has hundreds of trees. Remember the four middle grade novels I started last year? Well each is another tree for my forest, and so are the 21 notebooks of settings, plot ideas, snippets of conversation, proposed titles, and even character outlines stacked on my writing shelf. (I'm filling out book 22 with picture book ideas this month for StoryStorm 2017). My goal this year is to plant another tree in my forest. What's yours?