What It’s Like to be a Writer

There are many kind of writers. Novelists, mystery writers, autobiography writers, just to name a few. I’m a short story writer who has written a mystery and is writing another one. In case you didn’t know, it’s highly unusual for a short story writer to write a mystery.

I once had a friend who said I was lucky to be a writer. Well let me tell you if you enjoy solitude then you will be happy as a writer. It’s just you and your imagination sitting in front of the computer, trying to write. Words don’t always flow. When that happens, I pick up a book and read. Reading for me is inspiration. And of course I read a book that’s similar to what I’m writing.

When I’m writing I’m in the zone. The zone is like none other. You forget to drink, you forget to eat, you forget everything but the document in front of you.

I once wrote a screenplay. Difficult when you are not accustomed to writing a screenplay. It requires a certain format. I spent hours trying to format the screenplay, not hours writing it. Seems to me that I was spending more time formatting than writing. So I gave it up.

Now that I’m writing another mystery, I’m reading mysteries. I’ve read Lee Child and now I’m reading Sue Grafton. Sue Grafton is kind of funny, making her books enjoyable.

As I said, no matter what you write, you need to read that kind of book. I’ve taught creative writing and the people in my class never read the kinds of book that they liked to read. It was frustrating, but it turned out a few of the people in my classes actually had writing talent.

I don’t intend to teach anymore. It infers with my writing. And I plan to someday be a full-time writer.
____________________________________________________________________
Sue Powers is an accomplished writer. She has written a mystery, She’s Not There, that will published soon and is writing another mystery.

How to Start a Short Story

First, start in the middle of the story. Provide your characters with responses, feelings and thoughts. Make your characters active, not passive- meaning they do things, have actions, not just talk or think.You also need to provide specific details that mean something in the story. Lastly, but most important what does your character want? Need?

Fear is a great place to start a story. A character who is genuinely terrified is the best place because the reader is going to be terrified as well.

Sex is also a good way to begin a story. But who are they? Where is this taking place? On an airplane? On a roller coaster? In bed? On the floor? And what does sex mean to them?

If you’re having trouble starting your short story, use writing practice. Writing practice is a way to get to your unconscious, the place where your creativity lives. If you don’t know how to practice writing practice it goes like this:

Put the arm you don’t use to write behind your back. This is your editor arm. Next put a pen or pencil in your writing hand and begin to write never stopping to edit. Editing kills creativity and you certainly don’t want that.

———————————————————————————————–
Sue Powers has had many stories published. Her favorites are Saturday Evening Post, New Millennium Writings, Blue Earth Review, Adanna, Funny in Five Hundred and Another Chicago Magazine. She is now teaching Writing the Short Story via email.

My Creative Writing Class

My ‘Writing the Short Story’ class began two weeks ago. We had four people for the first class. Second class we had three (very nice people). For the third class, the fourth person has said she will be there. But here’s the thing – they’re all beginners.

Beginners need all kinds of help and instructions. How to write a scene, what felt experience is, how tone affects your story, how to read a story from the writers’ point of view, how to develop your characters, point of view, how to publish once you learn the craft of, etc.

I admit it took me years of writing to learn the craft of writing. And here I have only six weeks to teach my beginners just the basics.

For the first class, they learned how to reach their “wild” mind, i.e. the unconscious mind that writes the first draft. Then we went over the arc of the short story. After that we brainstormed ideas for a story they would write. In addition, I asked for them to let me know what they expected to write. One woman took a course in the novel, but she was determined to learn how to write the short story.

The second class we read their stories out loud. It’s important for some one other than the writer to read the story so the writer can hear how it flows. Which is exactly what we did. According the class, that story was done. I didn’t exactly agree with the class. But I feel my job is to encourage a potential writer so I didn’t comment. But further on in this class, I definitely will.

The following class hasn’t happened yet. But I have planned to discuss what felt experience is. That, plus we’ll read the stories I suggested by giving them an idea I’ve used before that was successful.

For many years I taught this course at Glenbrook High School. Then one student wanted a formula for success. There is NO formula for success, and if there is, please share!

People are very busy these days, and the short story has regained interest. After all, one can read a short story in one sitting.

Do you have an interest in writing? Specifically, do you have an interest in writing the short story? Take a class. Join a writing group. Lastly, start writing!
————————————————————————————————–
Sue Powers has 21 fictions published. She’s been awarded a Fellowship and grant in Prose from the Illinois Art Council, and two of her stories were nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Saturday Evening Post Results

Having an active imagination, I expected a great deal more then I received. I expected a publisher or an agent to contact me. And of course that never happened.

But before I discuss what didn’t happen, there were some good things. So far (I can’t speak for the future), Janet Krole, Richard Shandross and Bob McGowan Jr. commented. Mr. McGowan also went into some detail on why he liked it. Also many people emailed me and told me they loved it, liked it, enjoyed it, etc.

As for my writing group, they said didn’t know that Saturday Evening Post was still around. Or to be more exact, another writer smiled at me and another congratulated me prior to the meeting.

Now for the things that didn’t happen. They asked for a photo and a bio, which they didn’t use. Also they paid me $25.00. For a such a prominent magazine, one would think the payment should have been a lot more. (Usually small press magazines pay nothing. It’s supposed to be an honor to be published by a small press magazine, which is supposed to be one’s ‘payment.’)

I spent many hours and quite a bit of energy writing and rewriting until Eleven Jewish Korean Vets (http://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/) was finalized. Now, divide $25.00 by say 60 hours of writing, I just earned .42 cents!

This story went through several drafts before the final draft. My poor writing group spent countless hours reading and critiquing each draft. Then I had it proof-read. I also spent many hours submitting to various publishers, only to get rejections. Finally the Saturday Evening Post accepted this particular story.

But the biggest news is the editor of the Saturday Evening Post has requested another story. Though I doubt much will happen even if I submit and they accept another story.

So…. should I submit to them again and make another .42 cents?
—————————————————————————————————-
Sue Powers is a writer and teacher. She gave up learning how to play the guitar to concentrate on her book of linked stories, A Surprising Measure of Subliminal Sadness.

She’s teaching Writing the Short Story at John Hershey High School, 7-9 p.m., in room 119. You can also follow her blog sj-powers.com and on Facebook: s-j power stories.

Marketing and Writing

How much time do you spend writing vs marketing? I would imagine it depends on what you are writing. Say you’re writing a novel, a non-fiction book or a mystery. It takes a considerable amount of time to write these. But if you’re writing short stories, it takes much less time, so you can do more ‘marketing’ (I.e. getting your stories published.)

Short stories are different from full-length manuscripts. First, you don’t need an agent. Second, the first step is to get the story published. Lastly, once you’ve completed your book, then you can start marketing it.

In the days before Internet, writers would get fan mail in the post, actual physical letters, (some still do) and they would answer those letters. There are some great pictures of Hemingway standing up at his typewriter answering his letters every afternoon.

When people would do interviews, they would go on physical tours, to bookstores, or to fairs or different venues. Charles Dickens used to go around speaking. I believe people still go on physical tours to market their book.

Try and think of how you can integrate marketing in a sustainable way for you that’s creative and also meets the goals of what you want for your writing. Do you want to sell more books? Or do you want to become famous? It’s rare for an author to be come famous. So set your goal to sell more books. (By the way, I once had a student who wanted a formula to become famous author!)

Publishers rarely market their books other than putting them on their website. So it’s up to the author to market her book. The exception is Windy City Publishers. They’re a hybrid publisher that does the marketing for you. Of course they’re rather expensive, but if you are fed up trying to publish your book the traditional way, this may be the way to go.

There are other ways to self-publish. BookBaby is one of them. BookBaby offers print, e-books or print and ebooks. Plus it’s an affordable e-book self-publisher with no sales commission, plus your book gets an ISBN number through them. There’s also Amazon who publishes your book on Kindle.

I’m sure there are other self-publishing companies. Investigate and get back to me.