If You're A First Time Writer And Want To Become A Novelist, Don't. Instead, Do This.
With one hand, I was slashing the pen across the page. And with the other, I was tearing my hair out.
"Why the f*ck can't I write this story?"
I slam the notebook close and push it away.
Maybe I'm not supposed to be a writer.
Ugh! Here we go again! That negative, self-doubtful voice.
I was in the third year of my writing gap year, and I still hadn't written a good story.
I had this fantastic idea pop in my head - a detective fiction set in modern London - but I couldn't put it down on paper.
I was trying so hard - pushing myself, forcing myself, crying myself - to write something to validate my decision to take the gap year. I didn't want others to tell me I wasted my time. I knew I wanted to be a writer.
And here I was, not being able to write.
Meanwhile, I was trying to do other things to put my name out there - like YouTube - but failed there as well.
This trying-and-failing went on for two more years. And then I met Ray Bradbury.
If you don't know Mr Bradbury, he was (and still is) one of the famous short story & novel writers, popularly known for his Fahrenheit 451. So, you know, he kind of knew what he was talking about when talking about Writing.
When I wasn't whipping myself to write, I was watching writing videos. That is when I came across this.
Out of the many lessons I learnt from this almost one-hour video, I learnt one massive lesson I needed at that time. And it's in two parts -
"The problem with novels is you can spend a year writing one, and it might not turn out well because you haven't learned to write yet."
"The best hygiene for beginning writers or intermediate writers is to write a hell of a lot of short stories. If you can write one short story a week—it doesn't matter what the quality is to start, but at least you're practising, and at the end of the year, you have 52 short stories, and I defy you to write 52 bad ones. Can't be done. At the end of 30 weeks or 40 weeks or at the end of the year, all of a sudden, a story will come that's just wonderful."
I face-palmed myself so hard when I heard this.
Of course, writing a novel is hard, especially if you are a "new kid" on the writing block. I didn't know a thing about writing a book. I had so much to learn - characterization, plot, theme. To outline or not to outline, that was another question. Then there's a three-act structure, a five-act structure and, hell, a seven-point story structure! All this was overwhelming me.
So, of course, it's better to start your writing life with short stories.
My dumb-bum didn't realize that writing short stories was in my favour -
gets the writing habit rolling
stretches my creative brain without overwhelming myself
Practice! Practice! Practice!
quicker than writing a novel
therefore, giving me the immediate validation of starting and finishing a project
sharing it with you guys and getting feedback
and, thus, improving my craft
It is only through action and feedback that I can learn the craft of Writing.
So that's what I am doing (write😛) right now. I am writing one short story per week and seeing where it takes me. My novel ideas are still with me. I am just building up my skills to, one day, do them full justice.
This is a classic example of "starting small" - small enough to get started but big enough to make progress. So if you're thinking of writing novels and are having trouble, give writing short stories a shot.