I just returned from a (fiction) writing workshop this week. I learned a ton about craft, selling short stories, and publishing short stories. One of my big learnings: I play it safe too often with my writing. The stakes for the characters aren’t big enough.
This is an opportunity for me. I can take this feedback and experiment. I’m grabbing this opportunity.
It’s a little scary.
I’ve had some small successes in my fiction writing. (I’ve sold a half-dozen stories over the past three years. I have a crazy-big inventory of stories I need to see if I can sell.) And, I could continue to progress in small ways, as I’ve progressed so far. If you’re wondering, I’m a good short story fiction writer. I’m not great enough for me, yet.
I’m choosing to change. I’m choosing to fail as I learn, so I can succeed more in the future. Yup, more than a little scary. I’m not just learning early, I expect to fail. I expect to write short stories that don’t work. (This is why I write short stories. I learn about the craft much faster when I write short, not when I write long.)
I hate failing. And, I fear mediocrity even more than I hate failing. Right now, I’m not meeting my expectations. I’m being mediocre.
While I am not sure of my exact path, I know I want more from my fiction writing. That means I want, need, and will commit to this opportunity.
Here’s how I frame this oppportunity-grabbing idea for me:
- Choose something small. If you only have large ideas, carve a piece out of it. I don’t know how to experiment with something too large. The personal and professional stakes are too high for me.)
- Consider the timebox of the experiment. Can you try something for one day, maybe up to a week? (I try to keep my experiments to less than a week. I then see a faster feedback cycle.)
- What’s the one thing I want feedback about in this experiment?
When I talk about making the stakes higher for my characters, I mean what’s the personal consequence to the character? Even in the story I sold, I didn’t articulate what a job loss would mean for my character. I didn’t write that part down! I had a little conversation with this character, and since she’s so spunky, she’s okay. She’d find a new job for more money. Maybe as a matchmaker.
I didn’t write that down. That would have added to the story—the fact that she’s okay with a potential job loss and that she had a plan.
Or, if she wasn’t okay with a job loss, her feelings of fear. That would have added to the story, too.
As I wrote this, I realize I’m thinking of how to increase my technical excellence in my fiction writing. (I wrote a lot about excellence in Create Your Successful Agile Project. I’m writing more about it in Modern Management Made Easy.)
Yes, I’m scared of this opportunity. And, I plan to grab this opportunity with both hands and hang on for the ride.
The question this week: When can you grab this opportunity?
- What Does “But” Really Mean?
- Who or What Deserves Your Respect?