I noticed an odd block in my writing today. I don’t feel ready to publish a novel, because I don’t have enough short stories. Of course there isn’t a prerequisite number of short stories that one must write and have published before one is allowed to write longer works. You can be good at one length of story and bad at another. People can and do jump right into full length novels, because there are no rules, except the ones we make ourselves.
I have found that I have made a lot of rules, creating a sort of lock system to writing. I can write a blog post at anytime, without any sort of permission. I feel as though I should write a blog post before doing anything else, like yelling “timber” before cutting down a tree. If you are reading this, then I have posted in a public place that I intend to write this week. Why must the world be informed? My best guess is it makes me feel legitimate.
Once there is a blog post that is less than two weeks old I am officially a serious professional writer. I have a website and I am doing the things. I may now write. But I can’t write just anything, that would be chaos. Before I can write I must check to see what I am allowed to write. I talk to publishers that I know, I check calls on different groups or market posting sites. I need a theme and a deadline. I have spend entire days searching for the perfect project. If I find one, then I can write.
If not, then I must consume the works of others who have succeeded where I have failed. I read Asimov’s, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Ellery Queen, American Short Fiction, etc. or listen to short fiction podcasts. If I don’t want to do that I can read magazines, books or blogs about how to write. Once I feel like I have learned something, then and only then can I write whatever I want as long as it is still short fiction.
Every once in awhile I can break out of this pattern. For example working on a novel is legal in November for NaNoWrMo. I have finished the first draft of a novel in fact, but I can’t edit it until I have several more short stories done, because I am clearly not experienced enough to edit a novel. At what point am I really a “writer”? When can I trust myself to write whatever I want? How many stories must I publish before I am enough of an authority that I can give myself permission to write?
The point is, I am writing this blog entry so that I can write. I now have less than two weeks on the clock. Time to check the listings.