5. Turning a Short Story into a Big Deal
By A. W. Clarke
I had an idea. I had a genre. I knew how to get it out to people. And I knew I had to desire to do it all.
Now I just had to start.
My romantic novel was originally intended to be a short story of about twenty pages in length. I typed away on my computer a little each day, finding pockets of time here and there.
One thing I had to overcome was finding the time to write.
At the time I was working two jobs to support my family. Being so busy each day, it was hard to plan a time to dedicate a few hours to writing. So what I did instead was keep in the back of my mind that I had to write something as soon as I had the chance, even if it was just one page of ideas or storyline.
It turned out that I wasn’t able to write every day, but when I found myself with some free time, often an hour or two at night or between shifts, I would sit at the computer in a quiet place and close my eyes.
This was my engine for writing. For me, I was able to write when I pictured the detail in each scene from start to finish. One of my secrets is to pretend you are directing a scene through a camera and you purposely play it back in slow motion. By slowing down each scene, you can “look around” and picture each detail, like the colour in a woman’s hair as it glistens in the sun, or the appearance of anguish chiselled across the face of a distressed character.
During these quiet times, I was able to picture various scenes and type them down. Some writers compile and write out their work neatly in an organized fashion. Others just jot down the basic points, then polish them up later when they edit.
Create your own story in a way that works for you. One thing I found for me is that it was not helpful for me to create a timeline for my story. I kind of winged it as I went, letting each day of writing take the story on its own twists and turns. But other writers find a timeline essential to balance out the workload for the story. Again, write in a way that works for you.
After numerous sessions at the computer, my story was finished! I had produced a twenty one page short story of romance and passion. Little did I know that I was not going to stop there!
Enter my essential friend- the beta reader!
After looking over my story, I have to say I was quite proud of myself. I had produced a meaningful shorty story out of thin air! Now all I needed was a reader or two to make sure it all made sense.
I had a couple of people who were close to me read it over and they both found the story enjoyable. I felt like a million bucks. But, one of them mentioned something to me the next day that didn’t sit well with me at first.
“Why not add more to your story?”
I admit, when I heard those words, I thought somehow that I had failed. What was this reader looking for? But after thinking about it, the request made sense. I had looked up at a bookshelf in my room full of novels, each one obviously way thicker than an average magazine. “Damn,” I thought, “That’s a lot of work.”
At this point, I felt the little voice return once again. “How long did my story have to be?” I knew I was a newbie to the art of writing. I seriously doubted I could pump out a Stephen King novel by next Friday. But one day shortly after that thought, I flipped through my manuscript of twenty-odd pages and thought to myself.
Twenty one pages. I wrote twenty one pages. I’ve never done anything like this before, and just by being motivated, I wrote over twenty pages!
I knew it! I had to keep going. My friend suggested that I could add another story or two to this one…maybe make it a three part novel with a roller coaster ride and some cliff hangers. So I closed my eyes one night before bed and contemplated it all.
I already knew how to write a love story. I knew how to make it dramatic, which is what these readers want. I suppose, with more time, I could simply keep going, and add more beautiful and exciting things to the story. Continue the roller coaster of emotion my main character experiences.
I could make this short story a big deal.
And so I continued to write.
6. Formatting: One of my Biggest Hurdles
By A. W. Clarke
It was now my goal to take my mere 21 page short story and expand it into a roller coaster ride trilogy. By adhering to my technique of finding pockets of time to get anything typed down, I slowly pieced together an emotional storyline which took my dynamic character on a more meaningful journey. I would say that in about four months of writing here and there, my story was finished!
But it wouldn’t end there. Once again, I had my beta readers on it, assessing the flow and grammar of the manuscript. Quite a few changes had to be made throughout the edit, and I had to read it over numerous times- admittedly far more than I thought. But in the end, I would absolutely agree that it is vital to edit and re-edit your story. Every time you read through it, you might find something else worth changing or correcting. Sometimes you may find it necessary to take away a portion, or expand another point of your story, for sake of character development etc…
Once I was content with the final edit, it was time to make it tangible! From here I could have sent a copy of my manuscript to literary agents or publishers along with a request letter asking for their consideration in getting me promoted. But I decided to go at it myself. My philosophy has always been that I try to do as many things as I can myself without bothering people for favours. At times, it builds my confidence and skill set. Other times, I just get stressed out and crumble only to ask the favour. It’s all good!
I had decided to use an online publishing service, namely lulu.com. I downloaded one of their templates for the book size I desired and it had useful information like where to put the title page and copyright page, and how to structure the text throughout the book.
Formatting did pose some issues. For a newbie writer, getting the body of the story to follow the right indents, line spaces etc… was a bit daunting. I would format my work according to these guidelines on Microsoft Word, then convert it into a PDF file. When doing this, it is kind of like doing a dry run on a performance. You then flip through the PDF to see what the book might look like.
Pay attention to headers and footers (where the text falls at the tops and bottoms of each page). You have to adjust where each chapter starts down the page. These little appearance issues were one of the hardest things to figure out. I had to convert my Word file to PDF many times and preview it until the final product looked just right.
Remember, don’t settle for messy work. No one would buy a poorly built new car. Everything must fit together cleanly and correctly in order to look professional!
Now I was ready to upload my document to lulu.
Tune in tomorrow for parts 7 & 8 of my Journey of Writing.
A. W. Clarke