My short story, Flag, posted today on 1:1000. In a sense it is autobiographical, but none of it actually happened. The day I started it I was standing at my morning duty post in the commons of my high school when I saw a student walking around with a case of art supplies. While I was looking at him, I suddenly could smell acrylic paint. It took me back to so many memories. Later that same day, I found the 1:1000 website. They have an interesting concept where writers select a picture and then write a 1,000(ish) word story to accompany it. As I was scrolling through, I saw the picture of Jasper Johns’s Flag. Johns has always been one of my favorite artists. These two incidents of my past pushing in on my present inspired this story.
I’m not going to pretend here, I’m still a noob in the writing world. Well, maybe not 100%. I feel like I’ve made some progress in the past two years. I still cringe when I think about some of the things I did and sent out last year. But I try to forgive myself. It’s all part of the process. If you are new to writing (or at least to submitting) or you’re not a writer at all, but a kind relative of mine checking out my website, allow me to tell you how the first two years went in my life as an aspiring writer.
First, I wrote some things. Little things. Paragraphs in response to writing prompts and the like. It felt good and I got some confidence. Then I wrote a short story, a real 2,500 word miracle. I sent it out to a contest because I didn’t know any better. I forgot about it for a while. I reread it a few weeks later and realized I sent out an embarrassing mess and I’m glad very few people have ever seen it.
I stopped writing for a while out of pure humiliation. But a few months later Pinterest informed me that NaNoWriMo was a thing, and I thought I could do the thing. And I did the thing, kind of. I wrote the first draft of a novel over three months that fall. I thought my story was brilliant. I revised it a couple of times. I sent it into the world. I entered it into a contest. That turned out not to be an epic mistake. Don’t get me wrong, it ended in my embarrassment, but this time I got feedback and learned a thing or two.
I also joined an amazing group of writers, The Women’s Fiction Writers Association. I learned from them and I revised. I queried agents. The first few query letters I sent out were embarrassingly unprofessional. I got better. I even got one agent to request to see more. But nothing came of it. I despaired. I got over the despair and sent more queries. I despaired.
I also wrote another short story. This one I was sure was brilliant. I sent it out into the world with an embarrassingly unprofessional cover letter. It was rejected, twice. I thought that was a lot. I gave up on it. I took a MOOC from the University of Iowa’s Writing Program. I learned a lot. I wrote more stories. I sent them out with respectable cover letters. They, too, were rejected.
Then I wrote a story for 1:000. And they accepted it. Not only that, but they gave me feedback in the process and I learned a little something about what works in a story and what doesn’t. I wrote another one and they liked that too.
And so I wrote some more short stories and sent them out. And they got rejected and I despaired. And then I got over it. I reread my first novel and mourned the fact that it would never grace a bookshelf other than my own. But I realized it wasn’t my best anymore. I could do better and I would do better.
Now I’m working on a new novel. I love my new novel. It may never grace anyone else’s bookshelf, either, but I don’t care. I also just finished a few new short stories. In fact, I just sent one out. I hope I won’t be embarrassed by it in a few months, but I doubt that.