It’s not what you’re doing — it’s how you’re doing it
Writing a book, publishing it, and making millions off the royalty fee – that’s the dream, isn’t it? We all want to reach that stage one day, where we wake up to a topped up bank account, full of money coming in from our latest book release. The laurels, the fame – it’s all amazingly tantalising.
But God knows writing a book isn’t that easy – otherwise, everyone would write a book. It requires careful planning and outlining, completing the first draft, editing and polishing it to produce a second draft, possibly even a third. Finishing a book alone is a lot of work, but the job doesn’t end there. Next comes publishing. Whether you choose to go traditional or pick self-publishing as your preferred route, publishing is definitely more taxing than actually writing. You also have to build an audience who are just jumping at the chance to buy your book, regardless of which route you pick. That can take a while too. After that, there are book signings and events to take care of, in addition to the endless marketing you’re going to have to undertake.
And so you turn to the experts from around the web for help. After all, if you just do the exact same thing as them, you’ll strike rich too. You try everything possible. Follow all the steps outlined by every single one of the experts. You scour the net for countless resources, wasting immeasurable hours. Maybe even try enrolling in one of those classes that promise you a finished book by the end of the course (we all know how well that works out). You’ve given it your all, but your book just refuses to be written.
Don’t tell me that you’ve never had that feeling — we all have, at some point or another. I, myself, have started and successfully failed to complete (I’ll tell you why this was a success in a bit) seven books. Yep, seven. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s not something I have to be embarrassed by either. Ditching seven books taught me one thing — novels just aren’t for me. I could partly formulate an idea, but couldn’t carry it on for very long (my highest word count has been 8,000 words).
After a while, I stumbled upon an article that suggested accountability as the key to the success of numerous published authors, so I gave it a go. I began offering free previews of the two books I was working on to email subscribers, in hope of gaining some accountability. Alas, it was for naught (although I did get some valuable feedback from it, and learned that previews are not a very good lead magnet).
For a while, I was considering writing a novella, or even a novelette, but quickly absolved that notion. Unless they are a spin-off book for some existing, popular series (only to be done with permission, or if you have created that series), they have little scope for selling thousands (or even just hundreds) of copies. However, that didn’t mean I didn’t want to write a book. I did (and still do)! Writing is something I would like to build a career around.
I fussed around for a while, not willing to give up hope on a novel. Finally, though, I ended that endeavour and began to try my hand at short stories. And I have to say, it’s been a very good experience.
Short stories are something I can easily commit to, and easily crank out complete stories with satisfying endings, and no loose ends (unless there’s going to be a sequel). I can create good content. Most of mine don’t take longer than a few days to be ready for editing. At max, I’ll finish (edited, polished, and ready to go) one in two weeks. And that’s what matters — finishing.
Cory Arcangel published a book called, ‘Working On My Novel’, which contained tweets from various people talking about the book they’re supposed to be writing instead of tweeting. He collected a tonne of tweets, put it into one book, and finished it. The funny thing is, he’s earned more than those people – purely because he got something out!
That’s how important producing a finished version of something, anything, is.
Writing short stories also gives me the freedom to write across many genres at the same time— something I greatly enjoy. My mind wanders to strange, and convoluted places that I can adapt to fantasy, as well as sudden outbursts of a plot drenched in blood, making mystery/adventure the appropriate genre here. Sometimes it will cook up some insane way to torture a poor soul, and so I shift off to horror.
Some people tend to hold back from working on an anthology of short stories because they think that they can’t be marketed as easily as a novel. If you’re one of them, I’m afraid you’re dead wrong. There are loads of anthologies that have earned, and continue to earn a lot for the author. They are the most versatile kind of book, that suit nearly everyone, thereby increasing your potential audience tenfold.
A tip for curating an anthology:
In the beginning, don’t think about crafting a collection — just write. Give your story a title (or don’t it’s up to you – most of my short stories are just saved with a one-line plot so I know which one’s which), and write it out (if you’re having trouble coming up with a plot idea, enter your email below, and you’ll get free access to my report, ‘ One Word, One Plot: How to come up with an entire plot using just one word’).
Rinse and repeat. Save them all somewhere, segregated by genre (I use separate folders). After you’ve amassed a decent amount (I’d say anywhere between ten to thirty stories depending on the average length of one), bring up a list of them all.
You can’t just toss together a couple of different genres and expect it to work out. No, a common thread needs to tie all the stories in a collection together. It’s important to note, though, that this thread needn’t be the genre. Instead, it could be the theme (this is what I’m going for). For example, you could throw in horror and mystery short stories, while fantasy and sci-fi would gel well together. (If you’re not sure which genres to mash together, leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you).