Benefits of branching out

So, I’ve been chronicling my foray into discipline when it comes to my writing practice, and recently touched on how beneficial writing regularly seems to be thus far. And this week, I discovered new benefits stemming from my experiment writing short stories, which I specifically noticed when I spent some time on my actual book.

And now I’m going to share it all with you because blog.

Some number of years ago, maybe eight or so, the scruffy-looking nerfherder, Duder (my brother), and I were sitting around chatting, as we were wont to do back then (the SLNH and I met via my brother), and through this particular conversation, the idea for my book was born. I got really into writing it at that point, but wasn’t disciplined at all and just sort of turned to it when the mood struck, and then I had two babies at once and it really took a backseat to the rest of my life. I have definitely come back to it here and there over the years and have spent an inordinate number of hours musing over it, but aside from the first chapter and a partial second chapter, mostly what I have are pages and pages and PAGES of both typed and handwritten notes.

Because, you see, it’s a fantasy novel, and more than that, it’s technically of the high fantasy subgenre because, I don’t know, go big or go home, right? And, like, world-building is fucking insane. I mean, insanely fun, yes, but also insanely detailed and insanely overwhelming because the possibilities are literally endless and there are so very many questions that need answers.

So, because it’s me and I have a tendency to get a wee bit obsessive about things, I tend to get really fucking caught up in this aspect of writing and feel like I need to know everyfuckingthing before I can actually write anyfuckingthing.

Which is, you know, only slightly obnoxious.

Add to that propensity the fact that I have an extraordinarily difficult time not editing as I write and, well, you start to get an idea of how paralyzing sitting down to actually write my book can be.

Enter short stories!

Now, technically, this first “short story” is actually a series of very short shorts that may end up novella length by the time all is said and done. But because I’m writing and releasing them piecemeal once a month, they’re self-contained in the sense that I can’t go back and edit earlier ones if I find the story changes or doesn’t work out as I originally envisioned. And this has been a super fun challenge for me and comes with far less pressure than sitting down to write a chapter of my book. Because with a chapter of my book, part of me knows I’m going to most likely need to come back to it at some later date and edit the shit out of it, rearranging and adding and deleting passages and scenes so everything syncs up timeline-wise and plot-wise and all that. And while that may make it seem like it should be easier to just get the words out of my brain in whatever manner possible, it, in fact, makes it much harder for me because I’m actually trying to do all that arranging and syncing and thinking ahead as I write in the first place because my asshole brain still wants to think that if I don’t do something right the first time, I suck at it.

But the shorts are helping me get used to simply getting the words out of my brain and just dealing with the consequences later since I can’t go back and, say, edit the first installment if I decide to make major plot changes in the fourth. I’m forced to just roll with whatever I wrote earlier. So when I sat down to work on the third chapter of my book this week, I noticed that I was definitely less paralyzed feeling like I needed to know all the details ahead of time, and it made it SO much easier to just get the words out.

And as I peruse r/writing, a super fantastic sub in my experience, I’m realizing that these are the two polarities in how one approaches writing–you either outline and plan first or you just sit down and do it, with lots of writers ending up somewhere in the middle, of course. And for someone like me, who tends to overdo it on the planning end, just sitting down and fucking writing has really helped me see the benefits of this approach. Because except for having just a tiny bit of the opening scene pictured in my head, I planned precisely nothing about this first short story series before I began writing it and the story is just kind of growing on its own as I go. And because I’m so damn pleased with the way it’s turning out, it’s giving me a huge boost of confidence when it comes to just winging it in my writing.

So, there you have it.

Who knew trying new things could lead to such growth?

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