I have spent a full month writing (but not finishing) the first short story of a planned collection of ten. (Eight, actually—I expect to ditch the weakest two. They don’t know it yet.) At this point, I can safely say I have more questions than answers. The opposite would probably be worse, though; having more answers than questions might feel like a multiple-choice test, and tests are stressful.
In the last four weeks, the following mysteries, among others, have presented themselves to me:
- How much craft should go into a first draft? I’m a poet and I didn’t know it.
- Do they call it a draft because it has holes? Come on, I’m serious.
- Which is more important: sticking to the schedule, or taking the time to get it right? Within reason, as defined by a perfectionist.
- How much is too much backstory? Do you need a narrative providing the history of this question?
- Is it normal to crave frozen yogurt? Chocolate-vanilla swirl with rainbow sprinkles.
- Is it okay to write to entertain, rather than to be literary? My dream is to have a story published in a middle-school anthology.
- Literary magazines have length limits, so am I shooting myself in the foot (or accomplishing some other gory metaphor) by writing 5,000- to 6,000-word stories? Sounds like a job for an editor!
- How fully realized should the main character of a short story be? Same question for secondary characters. Screw the tertiary characters.
- How much time should I allow for research? Isn’t it easier to make facts up?
- How important is it to follow rules about writing? I’m not much of a lawbreaker.
I welcome answers to any of the above, and the sooner the better!