Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Long Or Short For New Writers?

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Most beginning fiction writers dream of writing a novel. They have an idea for a book and want to run with it. But is it smart to attempt to write a novel when you haven't yet written short pieces? A novel is a huge project with myriad problems to face. 

Would a brand new carpenter attempt to build a house be has tried a smaller project? Probably not. A kid who loves baseball can't move into the major leagues until he's had some success with school teams and the minors. Rare is the film star who takes on a leading role for their first professional acting job. Nor does an attorney argue his first case before the Supreme Court. We all need to work our way up to the project we dream about.

If you want to write fiction, begin with a short story. It has one plot, not a series of sub-plots that a full-length book might have. It has fewer characters. It can be completed in less time than a book. It is a fine training ground to practice using sensory details, to perfect using the necessary skill to construct good Beginnings, Middles and Ends, which happens to be the title of a terrific book by Nancy Kress.

When we dream of a big project like writing a book, we're usually eager to get going on it. We want to jump right in and write hours every day. Seasoned novelists know it's a fast road to burnout and frustration. Write a good short story instead. Even that can take more time than you think.Then market it and see if someone else thinks it's worthy of publication. Build up a few credits before you attempt to peddle a first book project to an agent. 

I'm reminded of a song Julie Andrews sang to the children in the movie, The Sound of Music. The first words of the song are Start at the very beginning... It's good advice for all writers, whether newbies or old war-horses. 

Start slow and work your way up. 

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