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Can someone who knows what they are talking about tell me if my idea is complete rubbish please! (Short story related)

(10 Posts)
OlennasWimple Tue 06-Sep-16 16:47:22

I'm trying to start writing properly: that is, completing stuff and getting it published. For various personal and professional reasons, I suddenly have the time to do it, and I really want to push myself to make the most of this opportunity.

However, I have too many ideas! I don't have one single "book I have always wanted to write", I have lots of stories I want to tell, lots of characters I want to get to know, and lots of styles and genres I want to explore. I have also recently fallen back in love with short stories, and have just discovered good flash fiction (when I first came across it, I read some pretty dire stuff, but the genre seems to be developing fast).

Anyway... I've had a thought about how I can corral all this into something productive, and that might potentially pave the way to publication, but I know very little about the industry, so need someone tell me if it's utterly bonkers:

- I set up a website where every day I upload a new short story
- all the stories stand alone, but some also form part of a wider narrative arc (some recurring characters, for example). The website will group these together / allow the back catelogue to be searched by collection
- stories vary in length, genre etc. Occasionally they might reflect the day / time of the year, but not slavishly
- readers can sign up to receive notifications when new stories are available and comment on them
- the most popular stories would be submitted for regular publication in a magazine or competition.

The benefits that I see are that it would make me actually get on with writing and sharing it with the big wide world. But I can also see some down sides, including some competitions have restrictions that preclude pieces available elsewhere, including personal websites. Plus there's definite potential for me to spend more time messing around with the website rather than putting all my efforts into actually writing...

Honest thoughts, please!

ImperialBlether Tue 06-Sep-16 17:06:45

Are you thinking you'd be writing a short story every day? That's an awful lot of pressure to put on yourself.

I think competitions are a good way to go - they'll give you a focus and you'll work on trying to make it as good as you can, whereas with a daily update on a website it's inevitable you'll put them up there before they've been properly edited.

What do you enjoy reading?

Spaghettidog Tue 06-Sep-16 17:17:17

I'm a bit confused as to what path to publication you see on from your website, though - I agree competitions can be a good way to make yourself finish things, but you don't need a website to enter competitions. (As you say yourself, it would preclude entering some.) What do you actually want to publish? Short fiction in magazines? A novel? It's still very difficult to debut with a collection of short stories, even if you've built up a considerable reputation, won competitions etc.

I agree with Imperial that if you commit to daily short stories you will inevitably end up putting up some half-arsed stuff that needs more thinking and an edit. Or having to put in a lot of work to attract an audience to a website?

Why is this idea so appealing? Why not just start writing short stories/a novel and enter competitions when you feel you have something ready?

If you find the idea of a readership appealing, what about joining a writers' group locally? Or doing a course, in person or online, if you have the money?

QueenJuggler Tue 06-Sep-16 17:34:02

How are you going to generate traffic to your site?

OlennasWimple Tue 06-Sep-16 17:56:43

Thank you all for the quick responses and questions - exactly what I was looking for!

I've recently joined a writers' group, which has been good in getting me over my fear of sharing stuff, but I don't get much by way of critique from them (they are too nice really). I guess the website would be a middle ground between sharing stuff with friends and sharing stuff with the hypercritical through competitions (where even excellent stuff doesn't always make the cut if there's something better).

In terms of what I like to read, pretty much anything - but I've been increasingly drawn to short stories, as I love the craftmanship of the miniature form. (If I could be any author, I would be Saki, but alas I cannot write humour at all)

Traffic... Probably the biggest downside to the plan. I'm not naive enough to think I'm going to become an internet sensation overnight, so would need to work hard on how to get some attention in the crowded online world. I worry that this would be a distraction from actually writing.

I'm relatively sanguine about churning stuff out: my professional life requires me to do that fairly frequently, and I've found that when I carve out time to make me do it (and I get off MN...) I can write relatively easily. I was thinking I would get a stack of stories built up before going live, so I don't have to write every single day, and I would get into a process whereby each day I was writing one story, editing another and publishing another. Possibly completely pie in the sky thinking.

I'm probably putting up some barriers to just getting on and doing it, aren't I?

Spaghettidog Tue 06-Sep-16 18:33:02

If you're after objective criticism, what about a writing course with a teacher whose work you like? One of the Faber or Curtis Brown ones? I hear you on the uncritical writing group. Unfortunately they sometimes seem to migrate to extremes - vicious vs unfailingly complimentary!

It does sound slightly as if you are over-complicating just sitting down to write. I also have to crank out giant amounts of prose for my job, but I find writing fiction a completely different discipline. You can hear an audible shunt and creak when I switch from academic prose to my novel. grin

Writing something every day is a great discipline to get into and a well-tended blog will always stand you in good stead with a publisher.

If your goal is traditional publication, your most likely route for short stories is competitions and magazines. Very few publishers will take short story collections (there are some - check out Comma and Salt) and they tend to look for writers with a track record of being published by journals or of winning competitions.

It is tough but possible to get short stories published (my first published work was actually a short story collection, although my novels have sold way more). A blog to host your work is a great idea to get you into the discipline of writing and sharing. It's just that the blog you've described isn't likely to lead to a trad publishing deal.

I hope this is helpful and not discouraging! Do PM me if you'd like to talk and share experiences (I've guest edited for National Flash Fiction Day's FlashFloodJournal and written a decent amount of flash myself, always love chatting to a fellow flash fictioneer smile).

OlennasWimple Wed 07-Sep-16 15:27:52

Thank you, thank you!

Outrageous - I'll PM you later today / tomorrow (am nursing sick child today...)

Oh no, poor you and poor DC! Hope they're feeling better soon.

MissBattleaxe Sun 11-Sep-16 16:16:59

I agree with previous posters about aiming for competitions. They really can open doors, even if you don't come first.

I think if you blog a short story every day it might not end up being your best work. Once it's out in the public domain, that will be your calling card.

If I were you, I would get a copy of The Writer's and Artists' Yearbook and look at the competition section. There are so many you won't believe your eyes.

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