The Benefits Of Expanding Your Writing Portfolio
Have you ever been asked, “When is your next book coming out?” or even worse, “How is the book coming along?” I have, and those questions are normal, but often imply that you aren’t doing enough work on your book if you don’t have an update to share. Writing a book is a daunting task, and sometimes there are long spells where no writing is happening. You could call it imposter syndrome, writer’s block, or maybe you are like me, doing way too many things to have a specific time scheduled to write your book.
What is an author to do when this happens? Generic, vague answers are the usual response. “Oh, it’s coming along.” Or, “I have the first draft done.” For me, that could literally be a few lines on a post-it note, like I did for the latest submission to an anthology. I have 3 short stories in 3 different anthologies, and I am aiming for more this year. Not because I don’t want to write my next book, but because I need to keep writing while I am clearing space for me to write it.
When I write for someone else, it definitely adds pressure on me to deliver my best work. I often doubt the final submission. Will it be good enough? Is it going to be rejected? Will I have to make a lot of changes for the publisher to accept it? These are common thoughts for me when I am submitting a piece of my work for review. I know I am not alone with these thoughts.
When you get a rejection, look for the silver lining.
So why should you put your work out there? I have come up with a few reasons to share with you here.
- Short stories and flash fiction pieces are shorter than writing a book. If you don’t have a lot of free time (or even if you do have a lot of free time) they are a way to keep writing, which is a goal of all authors.
- Practicing your craft is something that has to happen in every industry, no matter what it is. Every project you take on will not be a perfect version when you start, but with practice, your work will improve.
- Challenging yourself is something that allows for growth. If you stay in your lane, you will never go far or fast. There are roadblocks in every journey, and by challenging yourself, you will learn how to adapt when you need to.
- Learning new styles and genres can be an enlightening experience. I have a lot of fun when I use my imagination to write a story. My next book is going to be an inspirational read, which is not going to give me a lot of wiggle room for my imagination. (Who am I kidding? Of course, it will be full of things that I dream up as I write. That’s how I write)! By writing short stories for fiction anthologies, it allows me to keep being creative, and to not get so bored with my book that I would never finish it. (I have a deadline, I am working on it).
- Mastering those difficult skills like editing and formatting. (shudder) Editing is my least favorite task in the writing world, followed closely by formatting. I have fun when I write, but when it comes to editing, I have a lot to learn. By writing short stories and flash fiction submissions, the word count matters, and you must cut out the fluff.
When you do submit something you have written, congratulate yourself. Whether it is your next book, a short story, or a flash fiction piece, be proud of your work.
Be ready to submit your work to more than one publisher. You don’t expect to hit a home run on every first pitch that is sent in your direction, but you still have to swing the bat if you want to try. The same thing applies to writing. You will have some of your work rejected. It is a part of the author’s journey. When you get a rejection, look for the silver lining. Did you get constructive feedback about your story? Was there any information on your flash fiction piece? Did it come close to winning the contest you entered? Did your story go farther than you expected it would in the submission process?
All feedback is important. Remember it is not you that is being rejected. It is a story. Which you can decide to keep working on it to improve and try again, or to let it be and work on other stories, or that book now that you have some valuable advice to tuck under your ball cap.
One more thought about feedback. Turn on your filter as the criticisms come in. Constructive criticisms are worth a second look, and to be applied when you can. Negative feedback needs to be considered with an objective eye. Feedback should never focus on only the bad parts of your writing. If you get a lot of negative feedback, look for a common theme, and work on improving that instead of giving up entirely. Publishers can have bad days too, and they are not thinking about your feelings when they write feedback. (A good one will, and they will not be out to destroy you with their thoughts about your work). Sometimes you have to bunt the ball or take a walk to stay in the game.
When you do achieve a prize or an acceptance into an anthology, celebrate it! Shout it from the rooftops! It may not feel like you hit the winning home run at the bottom of the ninth inning, but it is better to be on base than hitting a foul ball.
Being included in an anthology is like getting the MVP award, and that is worth more than you might think. It has the potential for scouting and building a fan base based on what you contribute to your team, a much larger fan base than you might grow on your own. More eyes on your writing means more people falling in love with your words. There is no greater accomplishment than having a complete stranger compliment you on your writing. It happens, and it is one of the best feelings an author can have, aside from holding their book in their hands for the very first time, and signing your book for your fans.
So even though you are not constantly working on your book, you can still gain a lot of benefits from taking on smaller projects. As long as you are writing something, all is not lost. In fact, you have everything to gain from trying new things.