The art of taking small steps

by Mike A. Wants

The art of taking small steps

July 3, 2013 Writing 0

I’ve been reading fantasy for many years now and there came a time when I wanted to write it too. I think everyone gets to this point sometimes in his/her reading career. You have read so many amazing stories and you want to contribute. You have this incredible idea for a story, a world, a character and you want to get it out to the world. And I think that’s great! The more stories get written, the more exceptional books we can read.

I tried it too. A couple of times, actually. I had ideas for epic stories to rival the grand names of fantasy. Of course I tried to do it the same way my Idols did: over thousands of thousands of pages. I mean, when you decide to write a story you have to do it right, don’t you? And fantasy is a genre that can boast about some very long books/series. Just take Malazan or Wheel of Time: 10+ books at 800+ pages. So I decided to follow suit and write a long series with worldbuilding and history and sidequests. And detailed as hell! Can you guess where this is going?

I never finished. I started with all these hopes and expectations and never wrote more than a few chapters. Why? Because I realized it wasn’t working. I had no real writing background and taking on a mammoth project right from the start wasn’t the best idea. I bet some people can do it, but I lost heart because of my inability to make it work and stopped in the end. I did that a couple of times and never got anywhere.

I started (private) writing a couple of months again, this time doing it “right” and starting slow. So I started writing short stories and up, not really working for a specific wordcount I wanted to reach. It’s great to start with short stories, because finishing an actual story (even a short one) is a very good feeling. And it’s not as different from a novel as you might think. You have a full-fledged story in the end, just like with every other book. And some ideas work better in a small frame. I like reading them for that reason (or because they complement the book. See The Girl of Hrusch Avenue for example) and I think I’ll enjoy reading Unfettered very much.

I like short stories because you can experiment, try new things or learn certain ways to write by focusing on a single aspect. And if you decide that it doesn’t work you won’t lose too much. You can just scratch it and file it away under practice writing. Then you can start another short story, because one thing I don’t lack are ideas. Sometimes I just want to write a scene I’ve in my mind or about a character that has a unique quirk or play out an event and it’s aftermath. These are best done in a short story and who knows, maybe they have the potential to expand.

I like to compare writing with athletics: In both, you can only get better when you continue to write/train and do it for a long time. Talent might help, but first you need to get to a position where you can take advantage of your talent. And with both, you start small. You don’t run a marathon on your first day! You’ll start with small goals and work yourself up. For writing, short stories can be your small goals and reaching one of these goals will be very exhilarating.

So cheers to taking small steps and achieving small goals!

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