As 2019 began, I received exciting news: Wiseblood Books, a wonderful small press, will be publishing my first short-story collection, Measuring Time & Other Stories. The publication of this collection in the fall is something I’ve been looking forward to for years. The writing life is a long, slow journey, and this book is proof of that fact.
I read all good books this year. Well, I did start one that I didn’t finish, and you can read about that experience in an earlier post. That wasn’t a good book. But of all the books I finished, all were good. As a result, it was difficult to pick out my ten favorites, but here they are.
Disclaimer: only one of these books was published in 2018. Only 3 of the books that I read this year were published in 2018.
In the month since I finished a draft of a new story, I’ve been working intermittently on the second draft of a different short story. And as is typical of my writing process, I wrote the first draft four years ago. (It’s not uncommon for me to write drafts of stories at least a year apart.)
On Thursday night, I finished the first draft of a short story, and just as 20 years ago when I started writing fiction, I feel a thrill. I printed out a copy, wrote the date on it, and slipped it in my “Short Fiction” file folder that is 3-inches thick with drafts and revisions, pieces in varied stages of development.
I enjoy writing in multiple genres: poetry, essay, short fiction, blog posts, memoir. When I don’t feel the strong desire to write in one genre, I can switch to another. Beyond the genre shifting, I have multiple drafts of numerous pieces in each genre. I won’t mention numbers here, but let’s just say that I have a lot of unpublished pieces in various stages of development/degree of completeness.
As I moved into my semester break in early December, I jotted down a list of writing projects: the third draft of an essay, the second draft of a short story, a blog post for my university. In the past, I would work on one project one day, and then the next day work on something else. This break, however, I thought it was time to try something new: to work only on a draft of one piece until the draft was finished. Then, once I finished that draft, I could continue to the next piece.
How did my experiment pan out? The first week or so of my Christmas break I worked on that essay third draft, a draft that I promised to send to a friend by Dec. 22. I was able to send it to him a few days earlier than promised, and as a result, he sent his feedback earlier than I expected.
I also wanted to complete a second draft of a short story, a second draft that I had begun in July(!) and picked up at a few points in time. Instead, I devoted about 10 days working only on that story. I finished that draft early Saturday morning at a local coffee shop, arriving home to my wife and kids having just awoken.
In both instances, I found that during my non-writing times (while washing dishes, while driving, while doing other tasks), I was thinking only about that piece of writing. For the essay, I was thinking about what to cut, what to develop further. For the short story, I was thinking about ways the plot might develop further, how the two characters might interact in other scenes I’d added.
My greatest accomplishment was that my writing attention wasn’t divided among two, three, four, five (or more) “active drafts.” I can also proclaim that my time spent working on each of these longer pieces (a 10-page essay, an 18-page story) was more enjoyable as well. I was immersed in the world of each of the pieces, my attention (again) not divided.
So as I begin 2018, my writing resolution is to complete an initial draft or a subsequent draft before shifting to the next piece.