freshjaclyn's picture
freshjaclyn from Michigan is reading Beautiful You July 8, 2016 - 9:41am

Hi. I'm new here. I discovered the site on accident.

I've been writing for about a decade, but in the solitude of my own room. I haven't published, peer reviewed, or shared anything. I wrote in college, but I didn't study writing. I guess what I'm getting at is that I have no idea how to do this in a formal way.

My loudest and most nagging dream, as most of us probably share, is to one day publish something extraoridinary. However, I have problems finishing stories, getting to "the point," and establishing things past a certain amount of pages. I am confident that I don't write in the correct format at times. I'm great at opening lines but seldom write a last sentence.

I'm willing to put in work to improve myself, but I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know where to start. I feel like a complete outsider in the writing world.

The point of this vulnerable rant is: have you been here? Where did you start? How did you best grow your work? I work a job 60 hours a week and come home to do prompts, free write, read essays on establishing characters or plots. Any advice is appreciated.

Humboldt Lycanthrope's picture
Humboldt Lycanthrope from California is reading Sing, Unburied, Sing July 8, 2016 - 9:56am

You're in the right place my friend. Join the writer's workshop and start taking classes. It costs some money but when you see how your writing improves I think you will agree it is worth it. Good luck and keep writing!

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel July 8, 2016 - 10:07am

Welcome to the pit.

I started by coming to this site and reading all the craft essays. Then I took a few classes. Then I went to college for writing. I published in a few low-key journals. Now I'm going to an MFA. There I will continue to develop.

That is my path. It is nowhere near over. Good luck.

smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. July 8, 2016 - 10:50am

Stumble on in. I've been her a couple of months. I'm staying. I took a class, wrote a not very good 4,000 word story. I stumbled in. Still stumbling, still writing. Come on in and stay awhile. Start wherever you are and here you are. Welcome. gsr

freshjaclyn's picture
freshjaclyn from Michigan is reading Beautiful You July 10, 2016 - 3:31pm

Thanks, everyone. I signed up for a class in August and until then I'll continue to study the essays.

Here's to hoping.

helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman July 11, 2016 - 9:25am

Welcome!

Based on what you're saying, I'd also encourage you to finish things. Even if you end up with endings and last lines you don't like that much, I think finishing things will really help you build the momentum and confidence to finish more things in the future and finish them the way you'd like.

I found this great quote about building video games, and I think it's really true about writing:

Most creative people are familiar with the first part of making something, and it's easy to mistakenly assume that the rest is just more of the same. It's akin to repeatedly climbing the first quarter of a mountain and thinking that you're getting the experience you need to summit. Or running a few miles and thinking you can run a marathon. In truth, the only way to learn how to summit mountains, run marathons, and finish making games is to actually do those things.

 

jrbeecher's picture
jrbeecher from Los Angeles is reading About a half dozen different books at the same time (some history, some fiction, and some journalism) July 11, 2016 - 6:01pm

I don't work a 60-hour week any longer, and my son is an adult now so I don't have to parent in the same way I did when I worked those kinds of hours. What I did was "make" the time to write and not "find" the time to write. I also changed my definition of writing time. If I only had the energy to write for ten minutes on some days, then I made those ten minutes count. By count, I mean that I wrote or revised drafts. Some days, I was only able to fix a paragraph. I counted that as success for that day.

During those nights when I'm too tired from a long day at work to do anything but stare at a glowing device for a few moments, I shut it off and go to sleep. Whatever is online or on TV will be there tomorrow. If it isn't available later, I don't worry about it. Life's too short to catch everything.

Some of the specific actions I take to make time to write include:

  • I carry a pocket notebook and a couple of pens at all times. If I'm waiting in line somewhere, I jot down any ideas I have. If I have no ideas, I make notes about the people around me, what they look like, what they're saying and doing, and so on. Other times, I just doodle or write lists because at least my pen is moving. Get the best pen you can afford because it's not worth hurting your wrists or hands on taking notes. You can use your phone too, but I prefer the pace of using a pen.
  • I write what I want to read.
  • If a craft essay isn't giving me new ideas to try in my writing, I stop reading it and move on to the next one.
  • I stopped comparing myself to other writers. I listen to other writers, and thank them for their advice, but they aren't going to write my stories for me. I have to fail or succeed by my efforts, so if someone is more productive than I am, hooray for them (I mean that in a good way). I wish them the best and get back to writing.
  • Make writing fun and not anxiety-inducing. We all freak out sometimes with our writing and our emotional responses to it. I allow myself to have that crazy time, I enjoy it, I get it out of my system, and then I sit down and write again.
  • When I get bored with a story, I keep writing it anyway. What I hate a story, I keep writing it anyway. When I get so frustrated I never want to write again, I keep writing anyway. The story is never going to be perfect, but it does have to be finished.

The beauty in early drafts is that as long as you write something, you will eventually establish things and get to the point. The more you write, the more you can cut later to tighten up the story. Format can be fixed, so don't worry about it in early drafts.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated July 25, 2016 - 12:34pm

Who is in what class?

freshjaclyn's picture
freshjaclyn from Michigan is reading Beautiful You August 24, 2016 - 3:32pm

@ Dwayne, I'm in the dialogue class right now

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated August 31, 2016 - 5:48pm

I want to sign up for one but I'm just feeling blah lately. Working too much.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated August 31, 2016 - 5:52pm

I want to sign up for one but I'm just feeling blah lately. Working too much.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal September 1, 2016 - 8:56pm

You ask how we started, well, I just started. Long before I found this site or anyone else who wrote. Just... putting stuff down, one scene here, one there... And I thought hey, this is kind of good. (It wasn't, but don't worry about that.) And I got a little better, little better... But what drove me was the idea in my head. I could see the story taking shape, and my characters taking life. I knew my characters, loved them, loved to hate them, all that good stuff.

Then I eventually found this site, eventually started getting to knowsome people, going back and forth, exchanging ideas, learning from what they knew, passing on tidbits that I'd learned, finding online lectures that really stepped things up... All the while I kept writing. Maybe not every single day, whatever, sometimes I'd just read what I'd written. Sometimes I'd brainstorm and daydream. Sometimes I'd stress a little over not figuring out what to do next. I kept pushing myself to do it because I wanted it.

Finally shelved the thing I'd started because I just didn't know what to do with it, then freewrote a new something. And it was the most exciting time of my life quite possibly. It still sucked, but I was creating something in my head. I continued to learn from people and the internet and whatever else... and I started getting an idea of what worked in my new story, what didn't, what I could do, what i shouldn't... and I kept writing. Maybe not every single day, whatever. I keep pushing myself to do it because I want it.

Lo and behold some people now tell me I'm good at it. And maaaaaybe I am, kinda. And I'm still getting better.

Kedzie's picture
Kedzie from the SF Bay Area is reading The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien September 5, 2016 - 8:51pm

Hi Jaclyn,

I also stumbled upon this site.

A FB friend was chosen as a contributer to a new ezine (are they still called that?) entitled Gamut. Gamut is published by Richard Thomas, whom my friend called a "bad ass." I googled the dude, discovered that he taught a class here at Litreactor called "Short Story Mechanics," took the class and was blown away. Turns out he really is badass. More importantly, he brings a level of energy, competance and insight to his classes that is truly impressive and beneficial. Bottom Line: If you wish to write short stories take his Mechanics class. I also took his "Keep It Brief" class, which is great, but new students should take Mechanics first.   

I know how you feel about working alone and not publishing. I have three stories that people whom I trust and are in a position to know have said are publishable now, yet I never send them out. I'm sitting on them while writing new stories. Not sure why I'm so hesitant? But I do know that a big part of it is not knowing what to do. Like you, I feel lost at sea. Who do I send them to? How do I package them? What are the rules? What are the unwritten rules that everybody else knows and I don't? Who are these people? What must I do to get my stories seen by somebody who will actually take the time to read them and is also in a position to publish them? Where do I learn all of this stuff? It's like a second full time job.

So I tell myself that I want to have an entire book of short stories finished and polished before sending anything out. I tell myself it's best to send out an inter-connected collection of stories, rather than dribbling out one or two at a time. Of course, that's just comforting bullshit, and it assures that I remain unread. 

You said advice appreciated, here's some. View writing like boxing. You can— and should—study the fundamentals. But eventually you have to step in the ring and box. Nobody ever became a great fighter by studying the "theory" of boxing, or the "mechanics" of boxing. Sure, they learned valuable lessons from study, but ultimately they became boxers by boxing.

So, there's nothing inherently wrong with coming home and writing, writing, writing. Improve your skills until you feel you're ready and have something worth showing off. Then, once you have that, you'll need to learn a whole new set of skills just to get published. And that's the hard part.      

Not sure if this helps? It's all I got.