I wrote my first short story last week, and I’ll never be the same again.
For instance, I can no longer say “I don’t write fiction,” as I have for decades. I can no longer read fiction and wonder, “how do they do that?” I can no longer wonder why my right brain doesn’t seem to work. It evidently does.
This is terrible. I can no longer hide behind my mantra: “I’m not a storyteller.” That gave me permission to avoid fiction writing altogether. “What? Me write a story? Don’t be silly.”
I also had the romantic notion that I could ever write a piece of fiction, from that point on, there’d be a new, creative me. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Although I knew it in the abstract, I now have a working insight into how difficult fiction is to write. Harder than anything I’ve ever written.
Forget the chapter I wrote for a SAMS book on recovering a failed Linux system. That was a piece of cake compared to looking at a blank page and attempting to coax out a story with a character who’s interesting, conflicted, and flawed, but maybe likeable.
Some part of me told me to at least try. Timid, I started by listening to podcasts of writers talking about their stories. I bought the odd book on fiction writing. I studied episodes of Joss Whedon shows to get a sense of how he and his writers created such zingy plots and dialog.
Then she came to me. A character. One I wanted to write about. The more I thought about her, the more I realized where the setting of the story should be. I thought of a plot that might be interesting. And over the course of a couple of weeks, I finished it.
How’d it turn out? In truth, it sucked less than I thought it would. Although it contained awkward spots and lots of beginner’s mistakes that need fixing, there were some genuinely positive and encouraging comments as well, from my critique group.
And now I’m terrified. What if I can’t learn the craft? Maybe I’m too old for this. Will I ever be able to write another story? Novel? Are you nuts?!
Sadly, I’m hooked. I now know, absolutely, how stories get written. One word at a time. Two words deleted for every three written. Hard work. Bum in chair work. Existential: no excuses.
But you know what? It’s also fun. Hard work, but fun.