Today novelist, editor, ghostwriter, equestrienne and Star Wars fan, Belea T. Keeney of Apex, North Carolina, shares her tips on diving deep instead of spreading yourself out too thin when you first start writing fiction. Read on!
When you start out writing, you may be so fired up and enthused that you jump willy-nilly into any new writing project. Three novels going at once? Sure thing. Fifty active poems on your hard drive? No problem. Four different profiles drafted and notes for six more going? Yeah, baby.
But, you may find yourself floundering with so much going on, both on the screen and in your head. There are some strategies to manage your writing that will help you learn your craft and be productive, particularly as you start this new venture. Based on my experience as both an editor and author, here are three useful tips to consider:
One, start short. That can mean short stories for a fiction writer, short poems for a poet, and short profiles for a non-fiction writer. Short is manageable, easier to revise as needed, and gives you the bonus satisfaction of typing “The End.” A short story, let’s say, is probably going to be less than 7,000 words. That’s less than thirty pages. It will probably cover a very brief timeline, perhaps a day or so of your character’s life, and involve a limited number of scenes. If you find you do want to change the POV or its voice after you’ve done a draft, that’s much easier to manage than changing those elements in a novel. Plus, finishing a short piece will give you a boost of confidence, and inspire your belief in yourself that you can write something and you can finish it. To find out more about how to write and publish short stories, I’m co-teaching a workshop with editor/author Alice Osborn on Sat. June 21st in Raleigh, NC (details below).
Two, start small, and this doesn’t necessarily mean short. Small here means small in scope. If you do choose to take on a novel or long non-fiction project, you can make some decisions early on to keep it focused, to keep it narrowed to one main story. For my novel, The Tiger Whisperer, I made a deliberate choice to have only three main POVs, and a few one-off POV scenes. When I’d first drafted the story, I had a whole tangent of local political maneuvering and another whole subplot about the reporter’s backstory. Once I outlined it all, I knew instinctively that I needed to keep the focus on the Good Stuff: the tiger hunt, and not the human backstories. Also, the story lent itself to a compressed timeline; it’s only seven days long. If you do decide to take on a big project, think of ways to narrow the scope and keep the piece focused on one main point or plotline.
Three, write smart. “Write what you know” is sound advice, especially for beginning writers. The less time you spend on research, the more time you can spend writing. So, for example, if you’re a bowler and one of your characters bowls and you set some scenes in a bowling alley, you can probably just let those scenes flow. You won’t have to set aside time to look up facts. You’ll have the bonus benefit of giving readers some authenticity and details. Plus, bowling interests you. It’s part of the reason I write about animals, especially horses and cats. The work doesn’t feel as much like “work,” and I already know quite a bit about the topic. I’ve said to some of my writing students that I will probably never write a story about a scuba diver, but I’ll probably write about horses and equestrians for the rest of my life.
The point is to keep your writing focused and manageable. By starting short, starting small, and writing smart, you can work more effectively and finish the projects you start.
About Belea T. Keeney
Belea T. Keeney has published three short story collections, and her novel, The Tiger Whisperer, about an escaped tiger in Tampa, releases in June. She works as an editor for Samhain Publishing, Torquere Press, and a variety of private freelance clients. She especially enjoys working on paranormals, horror, romances, memoir, and most anything written about horses. Find out more at: www.beleatkeeney.com.
Write and Publish Your Short Story Like a Rock Star with Belea T. Keeney and Alice Osborn
Location: Center for Excellence, 3803‐B Computer Dr. Ste. 106 Raleigh NC 27609
Saturday, June 21, 2014 Time: 9:30am-12:30pm—Refreshments served
Fee: $29, spaces limited. Please register early.
To Register Click HERE
Writing and selling short stories can have multiple benefits to authors. They’re an opportunity to practice craft, work on POV, characterization, setting, and dialogue. For aspiring novelists, short stories give you a place to practice new techniques, experiment with voice, and develop strong scenes. Placing your stories gives you both publishing credits and the chance to earn some money.Join authors Belea T. Keeney and Alice Osborn who will give you specific tips on developing, writing, and selling your short stories. From literary fiction to genre fiction, print anthologies to online magazines, short story markets have a lot of possibilities. Come learn all you can about writing them! Both authors have written and edited short stories for a variety of publishers and in a variety of genres.