Write Short Stories After Novel Draft

Writing a novel is a long process. Writing a trilogy is even longer. Recently I finished the first draft of my second book. While I wrote that draft, I had all these other ideas bubbling. I’m no stranger to the shiny object syndrome. If you’ve been following this channel, you know I like to try different things. While I’m aware that focus is important, momentum is also important. I must keep writing, keep editing, keep publishing, and keep putting my work out into the world for approval or rejection. If I only work on my novel, the journey from beginning to end will take years. In order to get a sense of completion, I take breaks to write short stories. 

I get new ideas all the time, I record them, and then I put them aside. While working on my novel, I can feel these ideas stirring in the back of my brain. I consider these ideas as treats, and I save them for after dinner. Working on these ideas are rewards, and I can only start them when I finish my novel’s draft. 

It’s hard going from a drafting phase into an editing phase. It’s such a shift in mindset. Reading your draft is a painful experience because there is often a lot to fix. But by writing on the side, I can still indulge in the pleasure of creating without being completely bogged down and overwhelmed by the editing phase. 

While writing a novel, I spend a long time living in a specific world with specific characters. That tone stays with me like an aftertaste when I start working on something else. Writing a short story — or a bunch of short stories — after finishing a draft of a novel is like cleansing the pallet. You clear out all the derivative ideas that you have lingering by bringing them to life in some form. 

Writing a short story is also about experimenting. You can try something new that you might not be able to do in the novel that you have carefully outlined and structured. A short story is a practice where you can work out something you want to improve on without compromising a larger piece of work. For example, if I want to write an emotional dialogue scene, I can do that in a short story. Or if I want to tell a tale that jumps between characters and time, I can do that in a short story. 

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There is no better feeling than finishing something. But when you are working on a big project, the satisfaction of crossing something off the list doesn’t come often. By working on a short story, you put yourself in a position where you can complete something in a shorter timeframe and pat yourself on the back. I allow myself to feel the reward of finishing a task regularly, especially when I’m also working on something long. 

A short story is also a great way to get feedback. When working on a novel, in order for someone to get the full experience, they have to read the whole thing. But in a short story, someone can digest it in a few minutes to an hour. It’s a much shorter commitment, and therefore, a much easier way to gauge whether your writing is effective or not. 

Before I completely wrap up my novel-sized project, I have a plan for my return when transitioning to a new smaller project. I don’t want to just write the first draft of my novel, put it aside, and then work on short stories forever. I need to come back and finish. It’s all a waste if I don’t. The short stories should only act as a break, not a permanent change.

The way I do this is by setting a limit to the number of short stories I can write before I must go back and commence editing my novel. Last year, I embarked on a month-long challenge where I tried to write and submit 1 short story every week for four weeks. If you’re interested, check out this video right here

During those four weeks, I used word association with the four elements: earth, water, air, and fire as my inspirations. This approach was something that the author of Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury did. I found this experience to be refreshing and productive. It forced me to pick up my pace and complete a piece while staying within a theme. 

This time, I thought I’d do seven short stories during my break, and what better inspiration than with the 7 sins. I don’t want to put pressure on myself to submit my work this time, but I do want to write. So the goal of this little break between drafting and editing my novel is that I’m going to write the first draft of 7 short stories. Once I write these 7 short stories, I will return to my novel and start editing that. 

The plan is not to strike it big with one project, that’s unlikely to happen. The plan is to be prolific and maintain momentum. The plan is to have a project to look forward to. The plan is to sustain enthusiasm without burning out. I find that this method has been really helpful with my writing process. And I recommend giving it a try yourself. 

If you want to follow along on my novel and short story writing journey, please hit subscribe so you don’t miss any videos. Once completed, I hope to share many of those stories, so stay tuned for that as well. For now, check out these videos here. 

For more writing and editing inspiration and stories, please sign up for my mailing list. You won’t receive emails from me often, but when you do, they’ll only include my proudest works.

For more videos about writing and the creative process, please check out my YouTube channel here!

Build a Case for Your Creative Success as a Writer

When a lawyer is trying to convince a jury that the accused is a murderer what does she need to do? She needs to provide evidence. She needs to show that the accused is capable of doing such a heinous crime, that there was a weapon, and that there was a motive. The lawyer must gather proof to persuade the jury. 

In your head, you also have a jury. This jury will determine whether you can overcome your fears and procrastination and get started on the thing you want to do to succeed. If they don’t believe you can do it, they will turn off all your effort levels and offer no energy or resources to fuel your potential. 

You must convince this jury that you can reach your goal, that it won’t be a waste of time, and that, in the end, it’ll be a good investment. If this jury inside your head doesn’t believe you, nobody outside of your head will believe you. 

So how do you convince this jury that you’re able to achieve your goal? You must do it the same way a lawyer would, you need to provide evidence. 

However, this is not a murder trial and there are no crime scenes. There’s not going to be a bloody glove or fingerprints on a knife. Where do you find the evidence then? What should you even look for? 

Evidence of your success is all around you. It’s in your past, it’s in your day-to-day life, it’s in the relationships you make or the little moments where you pushed through and did something you didn’t want to do. Evidence that you can overcome hardship can be manifested as well. 

What you want to look for are moments when you accomplished something tough. This could be when you were a kid and you had to give a speech in front of your class or when you were a teenager and you asked a popular girl to dance. Record and file these moments away because you now need to build a case for that jury in your head. Every piece of evidence you have in your favor demonstrating your courage will come in handy later on. 

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Next, you want to look for moments when you were doing something grueling that you thought would never end, but you followed through anyway. This could be the summer when you woke up at five am every day to work a part-time job. Or this can be the long hike you took up a mountain without any directions and made it back alive. Anytime that you have persevered is proof that you’re someone who can commit to a difficult task without giving up half ways. 

Whatever qualities you need to be successful, find evidence in your life, no matter how small. If success requires consistency, look for evidence of yourself being consistent, whether it’s growing your mustache for Movember or working out every day for a month when you were twenty-three. 

If you want to read a long book, start by reading some short ones. If you want to run a marathon, start by running five miles. If you want to paint a public mural, start by painting your bedroom. Prove to the jury in your head that you’re able to take action and follow through. 

Without evidence of your past achievements and determination, the jury in your head is going to tell you to just relax, take it easy, and that your success is not worth pursuing, because you’re not going to make it. It’s like going to a bank and asking for a business loan, but you don’t even have a business plan. The bank is not going to give you the money. 

You must build a case for yourself. You must defend yourself. You must advocate for yourself, even to yourself. You must have evidence — a proven track record — that you’ve done hard things in the past and you can do it again in the future. 

Remember the jury isn’t stupid, you cannot compare waking up every morning to go to school to the mammoth task of starting a successful creative business. They still won’t be fully convinced. But you can collect evidence as you go. Don’t tell the jury that you’re going to win the Man Booker Prize, just tell them you are going to write for a month. Once you’ve proven that you can do that, you have evidence forever that you can write consistently for a month. Then you gather evidence that you can publish something. Once you do, that’s another notch on your belt. 

The more you do, the more evidence of your achievements you’ll have. The more you do, the better the case for your success becomes. So when you’re finally ready to approach your jury and tell them that you’re launching your business or project, they’ll see that you’ve honoured your words in the past and you followed through. There is evidence of that. Therefore, there’s confidence — at least with the jury — that you will eventually achieve this new mission as well. 

Do more. Collect evidence. And build a case for why and how you can achieve your goal. Be honest with yourself. The jury in your head is not against you. They are protectors of your time, energy, and willpower, all finite resources essential to your life. They are trying to save your life and keep you out of harm, but in doing so, away from growth. However, they can be swayed, but you’ll need to prove it to them first. 

For more writing and editing inspiration and stories, please sign up for my mailing list. You won’t receive emails from me often, but when you do, they’ll only include my proudest works.

For more videos about writing and the creative process, please check out my YouTube channel here!

Transcribing a Novel: Why Transcribing is Time Travelling

After writing a little every day for 121 days, I’ve completed the first draft of a novel. What now? Since I wrote the novel long hand, the next phase is transcribing. It’s not a particularly creative step, but one I enjoy. 

Transcribing would be my first experience reading my story through, from beginning to end. While it’s advised to give your first draft some time to rest and create some distance before you edit, I don’t feel the cool-off period needs to be that long. Since I wrote the first word in the novel over 121 days ago, I don’t even remember what happened at the beginning. At least, not the words I chose to tell the story. 

Transcribing is time traveling. It’s bringing your past to the future. It’s like going back in time and stepping on some butterflies. What I do in this transcription doesn’t need to be a replica of the past. I’m free to modify words, add details, change character names, and relocate whole scenes. 

Transcribing is also like moving to a new house. I’m packing and deciding whether a long scene is worth keeping or not. I could cut it and save a lot of time bringing it over, typing it out, dusting it off, and polishing it. If I transcribe it, I’d read it over and over again during each revision. While transcribing is a good time to cut anything you aren’t at least 60% confident in. Cutting it at this phase will save you both time now transcribing and later while editing. If there is a section that doesn’t add to the story, don’t type it out. 

I love transcribing because as a hoarder, I feel safe. I’m not actually getting rid of anything. By writing longhand, a physical copy of the text will always exist. That is comforting to me. When I write the first draft on the computer, and later I was to cut something, I’d feel like I’m losing it permanently. Even though I save multiple files for each draft, transcribing the first draft reassures me that I’m not deleting anything good by accident. Every decision was made intentionally. To not transcribe a word, a sentence, or a paragraph feels better than cutting that same on the computer. I’m saving myself a lot of emotional energy later on. 

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Transcribing is so different from writing. While I’m transcribing, I’m more relaxed. Unlike writing, where I need to imagine something out of nothing or form a clear sentence using my pen and paper, transcribing is like singing along to a song. There is a rhythm to follow, and I’m not traveling alone. There is also a clear destination in sight. I know how many words, paragraphs, and pages are ahead. By being able to see the end coming, I know when I can stop and when I can push on. 

When I write, I don’t write a lot every day, anywhere between 300 to 1000 words. I would always start each day by dating the page, and when transcribing, I use these little markers as checkpoints. I recall how hard it was to sit down and write each and every day — and I could empathize with myself from the past. When I transcribe a page written on a certain day, I feel a connection with who I was. For example, on Feb 28, I wrote this. When I transcribe that today, Jun 24, I feel like I’m looking over the shoulder of myself from Feb. It’s kind of freaky, but that’s how it feels sometimes. 

I don’t know what my favorite part of the writing process is, but transcribing is in my top three. If you can get over the fact that you’re transcribing imperfect work, and that you’re still early in your process, I think you’ll enjoy it too. This is, of course, coming from the guy who typed all of The Great Gatsby. 

It took me 121 days to write the first draft of this story. My goal is to transcribe it faster than that. But we’ll see — no pressure. What motivates me is that I have so many more projects I want to work on. The reward is that I can move to the next phase of another one. 

Stay tuned for more updates on my writing projects. I now have both book 1 and 2 written in some form. And that is exciting. I can’t wait to finish Book one, I can’t wait to start editing Book two, and I can’t wait to start drafting Book three. Most importantly, I can’t wait until it’s all done. Until then, I’ll just enjoy this phase for a bit: transcribing. 

For more writing and editing inspiration and stories, please sign up for my mailing list. You won’t receive emails from me often, but when you do, they’ll only include my proudest works.

For more videos about writing and the creative process, please check out my YouTube channel here!