“What if I write novels?”

“Hi Steve, I just watched your video on getting that first sale. It was a good video, except your advice on writing 100 stories and sending them out and you will get your first sale – well, I’m not sure it would apply in my case, because I write novels, not short stories. It will take me a lifetime to write 100 novels, to be honest. I have written 4 novels, self published three of them.”

I have heard countless variations on this theme, and my answer is always the same: if you haven’t published AND BEEN PAID FOR ten short stories, you are missing a critical developmental step, one that can cripple your career.   It is like saying: “I want to be able run a marathon. I’ve never run. How can I run 23 miles?”

Ummm…by first running around the track.  Tomorrow, run twice.  Add one lap every day that you can, and get back to me when you are at five miles.

It is one of the most basic errors new writers make. Self-publication has made it possible to skip this step, and some people do this with success. They need a different coach. I’ve seen too many fail this way, and in too many cases they took this path because of fear of rejection, or wanting to take a short cut.

My path is slow, and steady, and works.   So far as I know, every time.   If you want to write novels, great!   Novels are where you get paid. Short stories are where you learn your craft.  EVERYTHING you need to know how to write a novel is in the seed form of short stories, including all the tactical and strategic elements of marketing.  If necessary, write stories set in the universe of your novel, with characters from the novel.  THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN IDEA WITH AN INTRINSIC LENGTH.  ONLY THE TREATMENT OR EXPRESSION OF AN IDEA HAS AN INTRINSIC LENGTH.

I have never heard a single solid reason not to start with stories, but know a dozen solid reasons not to.  And I’ve heard hundreds of excuses.   I will never accept even one of them.

What if you write screenplays?  WRITE SHORT FILMS. The advantage?  You can actually MAKE a short film by writing a one-act play set in a single indoor location, and getting actors from the local community college to perform for you.  Film it on a damned Iphone, or a video camera rented for a single day for $35 bucks.

You will learn HUGELY more by writing 100k of short stories than you ever would by writing a 100k novel.   Seriously–I’ve watched this for over forty years.   I suspect I’ll continue to have this opinion until the day I die.

Write with passion!


(fear really is a career killer.  If you want a copy of the lecture T and I recorded on fear and writing, drop me a line at stevebarnescoach.gmail.com with “No Fear” in the subject line!)







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