I have stretch marks — but probably not the kind you are thinking about. Well, I have those too. Hard not to when you’ve given birth to two kids. But what I’m talking about is Writer’s stretch marks. We get them when we
look at where we’re at, what we know, and then look at the opportunities for growth, to look beyond ourself. I want to go there, climb that hill, see what’s over the mountain.
How do you challenge ourselves? How do you achieve your stretch marks? What’s the hardest things you’ve done and how did you overcome your doubts to make it happen? It might be writing flash fiction … or a novel; writing in a different genre, or learning about a new subject you never thought you could. It could be writing poetry or … simply picking up a pen on a really hard day. I’ve been there and I know how difficult that is.
For me, growth comes in challenging myself to write outside my genres of science fiction and Victorian era history. In fact, the science fiction was a stretch all on it’s own and I suddenly found myself learning about quantum physics and more than three dimensions. Thanks to Merideth Rose Ashe (read her Velvet Skies blog) and Michio Kaku I now have a much better understanding of what I perceived in my brain but couldn’t quite articulate. When I finally understood the physics of my world, everything started to open up.
Big stretch marks!
One of my biggest challenges lies in “writing small.” I am used to big, sweeping manuscripts where I can fill in detail, splash in brilliant colours, and throw in “half a billion people” as my daughter says. Writing anything under 5000 words is a challenge and trying to keep it under 1500 words is nearly impossible.
I am working on writing short. But how do you tell a complete story that holds together in so few words? It feels spindly and unstable to me, with setting and characters not fully formed and just enough of a plot to get the story from beginning to end. I keep wanting to shout, “more web, please!” (On a side note, how do recluse spiders manage to catch anything with such wispy webs?)
This week I finished a 13,000 word Regency mystery. Another stretch for me as I’ve never written a mystery, let alone a Regency. I started with a writing topic called The Dinner Party. The thing was only supposed to be 3000 words long, okay maybe 5000 words; alright if I had to 7500, but absolutely not 10,000 words. Apparently people in Regency England use a lot of words and I ended up at 50 pages and 13, 260 words. But the finished story is pretty good. I like it! It has humour, romance, whimsy, a bit of scandal, some good whodunit, and a great finish. It’s not nearly ready for publication yet, but my goal is to get it out by fall, November at the latest.
This is where the real stretching and growth comes for me, this letting go of what I write and sending it out into a wider world to be accepted or rejected by editors who don’t know me, don’t care about me, don’t always get my creative spin on things. Wouldn’t it be nice if every editor loved everything we wrote? The world would be a much jollier place. But they don’t always and learned that it’s okay. I celebrate my rejection slips, each and every one — after all, someone read my manuscript — put them in their file, and go on to the next publisher, the next article, the next story … or attempt to finish my novels.
Stretch marks: I’ve showed you mine, now show me yours.