This guest blog post comes to us from fellow author and dear friend M. E. Garber. You can find more of her work at her blog, Everyday Magic.
It’s springtime here in the northern hemisphere, and all around are signs of life, and growth: new leaves on trees, bulbs springing up and flowering, shrubs and annual plants growing, growing…. It’s beautiful, and no two springtimes are ever the same.
But what about your writing? Is it, too, growing? Are you allowing yourself to experiment, to change and bloom into new ways of writing? Even if you’re not stuck in a rut, it’s a good idea to let yourself play a bit, to attempt something new just for the fun of it. Who knows, maybe one day that “play” will become a new genre you write, a new style you excel at!
What do I mean about “growing” your writing? There are many ways you can do this. The first, simply enough, is to keep writing and practicing your craft. To consciously try to improve a certain aspect. Is plotting your downfall (as is has been for me)? Then plot your way through an entire story before writing it. Try different methods of outlining, because there are many and not all are going to work for any given writer. It’s taken years, but I’ve finally found a method that works for me. For now. In five years, who knows? Maybe I’ll need to re-adjust yet again.
You could also try another genre, or sub-genre. If you’re primarily a fantasy writer, how about trying SF, or a science fantasy? Why not? What’s holding you back? Back when I attended Taos Toolbox, Nancy Kress encouraged me--then mostly a fantasy writer--to give SF a try. She told me I was “smart enough” (not exactly her words, but the subtext of them), which was exactly what I needed to hear. Now about half of my published short fiction is SF! So let me pass the message on to you: You’re smart enough. Try whatever sub-genre you’d like, too: humor, romance, -punk, utopian, dystopian, whateverian.
Another way to “grow” your writing is to try another form, another length. Are you a short story writer? How about trying flash fiction--a complete story in under 1000 words? For drabble writers (under 100 words), how about expanding up to flash, or to 3,000 words? Novel writers might try a novella, or novelette. They’re all stories, but they feel completely different when writing them and they flex different writing muscles.
Why care? I’ve found writing flash fiction helps with my novel writing as much as my short stories. The ability to ruthlessly pare a story to the barest and best descriptives. To imply as much as state. To be succinct. And when you’ve written under-1000 word stories, suddenly having 3,000 words feels like immense luxury. What could you do with that?
So I encourage you to celebrate spring in your writing by consciously growing. Changing. Becoming anew. Delight in a bit of play, and reap the rewards of new skills. Let me know how it goes for you.
- M. E. Garber