I could kick my behind for the self-pity I wallowed in about my writing last year. “All I can manage are short stories,” I lamented repeatedly. Well, in fairness to me, 2017 was about massive health scares and so much testing. The stress of everything prevented me from finishing the sequel to my first book. During that fiasco year, a friend encouraged me to try short stories, so I did. Next thing I knew, I loved meeting the challenge of writing to a smaller word count.
When I could, I jotted down a tale. I wrote several short stories last year. I submitted two of them to anthologies. Both were accepted! What?! Guess that totally ruins my pity party, huh?
What I loved about writing short fiction—and this year, flash fiction—was that it (1) honed my storytelling skills and (2) made me a stronger editor. Whittling my story from 200 words over the limit to exactly 1000 words was a personal triumph. Boy, did my sentences read crisply after that. The experience of writing to a certain ceiling forced me to learn to express myself more clearly. As a result, it improved the first drafts of the chapters in my prequel, The Stealth Lovers.
Oh yeah, and writing shorter works influenced me to create that prequel and accidentally win NaNoWriMo 2017. Almost every chapter of The Stealth Lovers reads like a work of its own.
So . . . 2017 was not a wasted year at all. When you write, nothing is wasted.
I even extend this to my very first unpublishable novel from my 20s. I learned that I could complete a manuscript! After it got rejected, I also discovered (from the note I received from an editor) that I create charming characters. Those were good things to know about myself. In my early 30s, I attempted a novel called The Krystal Tower. Again, it was terrible, but with glimpses. I maybe wrote two chapters. The main character of that story? Virj Ofreesin. Yup, he’s the protagonist in Life in the ’Cosm. See? You toss out the bad but keep the good. I call this upcycling the positive!
And now I’m on my way to completing the first draft of The Stealth Lovers. I’ve already had interest in it from readers and my publisher. I’m also still working on short stories, because I’ve a taste for them now! And as for the sequel to Life in the ’Cosm? My plan is to finish the first draft in 2019. Things are happening!
I suppose I’m telling you all this in case any of you feel discouraged about your writing or its progress. I reckon this happens to all of us, and it’s important to reach out to our fellow alphabet arrangers to say that we empathize. Don’t despair or give up. Even that lousy manuscript you hate might transform your future writing in a way that’ll blow your mind.
Happened to me!
Keep writing, peeps. It’s never a waste of your time.
Cait (pronounced like “cat”) Gordon is originally from Verdun, Québec, and has been living in the suburbs of Ottawa since 1998. Her first novel, Life in the ’Cosm (Renaissance) was published in 2016. Her short story, A Night at the Rabbit Hole, appears in the Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland anthology (Exile Editions). She’s currently working on The Stealth Lovers, a prequel to the ’Cosm series. For her day job, Cait is a freelance editor. Some of the titles she’s edited include Confessions of a Mad Mooer: Postnatal Depression Sucks (Robin Elizabeth), Camp Follower: One Army Brat’s Story (Michele Sabad), Skylark (S.M. Carrière), Little Yellow Magnet (Jamieson Wolf), A Desert Song (Amy M. Young), and Moonshadow’s Guardian (Dianna Gunn). Cait is also the founder and editor of the Spoonie Authors Network, whose contributors manage chronic conditions and/or disabilities.