Hello and welcome back to the blog! There isn’t much news on my front this week. I’m still writing a short story involving vampires, thanks to some interruptions over the past week. Querying continues as well. I had a few varying thoughts on my mind, so this week we’ll skip the topical blog post in favor of a rambling edition. If you’re new to the blog, the ramblings are simply a post where I ramble off my thoughts on a variety of writing related topics. Let’s get to it.
- They say that writing is hard. However, I think writing with kids around is harder yet. As you know, the world we live in today is vastly different than it was a year ago. With the ongoing pandemic we’re spending more time together than ever before. Last week, my wife went back to work (she’s a teacher), which was a big step in her recovery from a noncancerous brain tumor. (A note: this is the health scare I mentioned a while back. She’s doing great, by the way.) That leaves me home with the children when I’m not working my own part-time job. I’ve always been a writer that needs complete silence when working, though I can work with some noise if I focus hard enough. A feuding eight and five-year-old, coupled with a slothful and dramatic twelve-year-old have made for a less than ideal writing environment. That being said, writing has happened. Getting the kids outside, playing some games on the Wii (yes, we still have one of those), and not bothering Daddy unless bodily injury or damage to the house occurs is to thank. My goal while watching them has been modest, a few hundred words each day, but my current story is making progress.
- I’m a big believer in editing. In fact, in my opinion, half of writing, good writing anyway, is a proper edit, which is why I don’t share my unfinished work. I don’t have anything against writers who feel the need to share their work as they go along. However, I’ve been writing for sixteen plus years and editing goes hand in hand with that. I know I’m a decent writer, yet I also know my work will be made better from a proper editing session. I liken sharing your work as you go along to sharing a first draft. My first drafts are quick and sloppy, but if yours aren’t, well, more power to you.
- While reading this week I realized how much I enjoy a story with section breaks. The story I was reading was a short story with around a thousand words per section. I’m not sure if it’s pacing or the quick change of scenery that typically happens, but I prefer it over longer sections with little to no break. I’ve utilized section breaks in many of my short stories but have generally avoided them in novels (these are typically middle grade). My current short story has several short sections thus far, which I’ve liked. Of course, an edit will be the final verdict. Also, I’m thinking of incorporating more section breaks in my novels.
- I’m not sure if there’s anything worse when reading than a good story ruined by a writer who lacks the skills to write said story. Last week, I finished reading a novel that had an intriguing plotline but was ruined by bad writing and even worse decision making on the writer’s behalf.
- As a writer I know our job is to be descriptive. After all, we are entrusted with the task of being the stories spokesperson and advocate. Creating a unique world is a wonderful thing that a writer gets to do. Putting images into a reader’s mind using words alone. The connection is powerful. I say that so I can say this, overcomplicating that world doesn’t do your reader any favors. In the novel I mentioned above (Railhead by Philip Reeve, if you’re interested. Sorry, but I can’t recommend), the worst decision the writer made was including footnotes in the story. The novel takes place beyond our world and does require some added explanation at times. Yet, each footnote was multiple paragraphs long. There were chapters with five or six footnotes of unnecessary information. There were times when I had to remind myself of what had happened because I had read four footnotes in the same paragraph and read multiple pages of information. Look, I get that you’re creating a world of your own, but such actions kill the flow of the story and the reader’s interest along with it. At least it did with this reader.
- In the last year I’ve become quite active on social media, with Twitter and Instagram being my favorites. Interacting with such writers has been an interesting experience to say the least. The varying approaches taken to the same craft has been an eye-opening experience. There are opinions and takes I don’t agree with, but half the fun is seeing what odd ways people have found to do something so simple.
- Speaking of social media, I had a… unique response from a tweet last week. My tweet: “Does any other writer have to do a mental reset when switching from a novel to a short story? Vastly different skills are required to make each successful.” To which another writer responded, “No. I also write my short stories to feel like a complete chapter or something that can be followed up on if I please.” I didn’t bother responding, as I’ve had enough Twitter battles over unimportant topics to last a lifetime. While I can appreciate his approach, I don’t think it’s a good one to take. A chapter is a small part of a bigger story, while a short story is a complete story in its own right. To be a proper story, it must contain a beginning, middle, and end, which might or might not happen in the context of a chapter in a novel. (Snark and harsh opinion alert) I think it’s approaches such as this one that make short story writing so difficult for most writers; they don’t have the proper mindset.
(A note: I’ve had five short stories published in a variety of magazines over my sixteen years of writing. I say that not to brag, because that is nothing to brag about, believe me, but to say that I’ve had experience with the art that is the short story. In fact, I’ve had more experience with short stories than with novels. I could be wrong on my take, you’ll never convince me of it, but I could be.)
- My oldest daughter is quickly becoming a teenager and a rather disturbing change has taken place, at least in the eyes of this writer. Once upon a time she read as much as I did and completed books faster as well. Her appetite for books has withered in the last few months, reading only when prompted by my wife or myself. I’m an accepting parent, believing in letting your children be who they truly are. Yet a part of me is sad at this development. It appears not only am I losing my first reader, but my reading buddy as well.
That’ll do it for this week. You can follow me on Twitter or Instagram, @StephenRoth316 for both. Click on the follow button at the bottom of this page and enter a valid email address for free updates on the blog. Until next time, remember to follow your dreams, even if they terrify you.
Stephen Michael Roth