Last night I turned in my second short story assignment for the anthology workshop I’m taking – yay!!! It was a lot easier than the first assignment (no surfing in this one!), but it still was an awful lot of work.
I came up with an idea right away, and I felt that it would technically fit the assignment but probably wouldn’t be what the editor for this particular anthology would be looking for. This workshop is structured so a different editor is buying stories for each of the six anthologies. There’s no guarantee that I’ll sell any of my stories, but part of the goal of this class is to learn how to make it more likely to get a story accepted. So when I was thinking about my first idea (a Western) and then started to ponder the second (a ghost story), I felt that the ghost story was probably a better fit. As an added bonus, the Western story I wanted to write was going to eventually be a chapter in a planned novel, and in thinking through how to write it for this anthology I figured out a few things that will make it work much better for the novel. (Assuming I remember to write them down after I finish this post…)
I titled this story “Haunted” – it was originally “Hunted” but, as often happens, the story changed a little as I wrote it. After the last story, I decided I should have a really good handle on what I was going to write before I started because I have so little time to write – especially this past week. By the weekend I’d put together a complete outline and had researched the one thing I didn’t know enough about. The outline really helped, and it turned out the actual writing took a lot longer than I’d expected. Obviously writing time will vary from story to story, but this was a really good learning experience because I usually either don’t have a deadline, or I have a deadline for a class where the story can be more of a first draft, so it’s okay to hand in a first draft because I know I’ll be able to polish the story later. I learned that to get to a final draft of a brand new story takes quite a bit of time.
Coming up with a new plot, new setting, and new characters takes a lot of energy as well as time. I’m looking forward to going back to editing the novel because that feels easy in comparison. Those characters are known, and even though I need to rewrite one major scene I’ll be using characters I’m already familiar with. I knew all of this stuff going in to the latest assignment, but at this point it’s all much more obvious. For the next four assignments (which won’t be given until January…whew!) I’m going to see if I can leave work early one or two days during the week so that I can get the first drafts written sooner. (Each assignment is given on a Monday and is due the following Sunday.)
I’m glad to have had this lesson. Not only will this help me schedule time and (hopefully) create better stories for the remaining assignments, this gives me information I can use for any story I write. I’m trying to pay attention to how long things take so that I can get more efficient and make what little writing time I have be as productive as possible.
And now…back to the novel! 🙂