In 2014, I got the brilliant idea to practice writing by completing one short story per month. This was a modest target which I thought would be achievable. For two years I adhered to my goal, without even missing a month.
The exercise was truly a learning experience.
I learnt to write a complete story from beginning to end without losing focus. Once I finished a story, I learnt to set it aside for a week and more. Earlier this had always proved challenging for me. I would grow impatient to attack a story for edits as soon as I was done, but because the words were fresh in my mind, I would never spot the flaws that became apparent to me later. This one step helped improve my stories a lot.
The multiple rounds of editing, revising, rewriting, became second nature to me. Some writer friends and I had formed a group wherein we exchanged critiques, and I kept an eye out for the comments that came back on my stories. Both the positives and negatives gained equal importance, because I could now build on my strengths while addressing my weaknesses. Getting feedback on my stories helped take my stories to the next level where I stood a better chance of getting published.
In previous years, I would look up literary journals and zoom straight to their submission guidelines. I’d barely stop to evaluate what kind of stories the journal published, whether my work fit their requirements, what rights they asked for. With experience, I began reading stories published by the journal first. I scrutinized them to check if they matched my aesthetic or not, and then I submitted. This did not necessarily stem the flow of rejections, but I must admit that the number of personal rejections and invitations to submit again increased quite a bit.
Another thing I’ve started doing recently is tracking my word count and writing output in an Excel sheet. Note that I don’t set a target for this, but merely check the trends of how much I’m writing and how often. Writing every day is not feasible for me, though that is indeed the advice dispensed almost everywhere. I believe writing regularly is far more crucial. If I spend more time writing on a weekend, I can easily make up the word counts that I would have hit if I had been writing every day.
I hope to hit a half-century of stories this year – my published count stands at 48 as of today. That doesn’t mean the end though. I will keep writing and publishing my stories, and have started experimenting more with flash fiction these days.
Do you see changes in yourself as a writer? What would you do differently if you had to start from scratch today? Let me know in the comments!