As noted a few weeks ago, I've reached an understanding about Story that is dead simple but—for me, at least—revolutionary. (Or possibly evolutionary?) Basically, a story needs a protagonist with an actual goal, and I need to know what that goal is before I start writing the story.
This is dramatic structure 101 type stuff and no cosmic revelation, I know. I think the reason I didn't 'get it' for so long was because my process has been seat-of-the-pants, a start-writing-now-and-figure-it-out-later kind of thing. Which, as it turns out, is a great way to develop ideas, characters, and settings. But a lousy way to develop plots. For me, anyway.
I've only written a few stories since this magical revelation, so I don't know that I've solved all my problems. I do know that I've had absolutely no trouble finishing those stories. Compared to the last three or four, which I stalled out on, one-by-one, this is a huge blessing.
Yes, folks, it's true. I've converted. I'm an outliner now.
Keep in mind that my outlines are pretty much chicken scratch compared to a serious, hardcore planner-type. And the story often veers far away from the original plan. Even so, I'm starting out with a plan now, and it feels mighty good.
I haven't written as much lately as I would like, even with this new-found fervor. Not for lack of effort or time, but because I've been putting that time and effort into publishing. This is the second week in a row that I've formatted, made a cover, and epublished a short story. Which also feels mighty good.
When I started writing, about a year and a half ago, I did so because I heard about the boom in self-epubbing. My intentions were always to put my work out myself, but I've been mired in traditional submissions (and in learning how to write well, which turned out to be more difficult than it appeared). I finally feel confident enough in my craft to move the publishing to the front burner.
I've got close to fifty short stories finished at this point, plus another ten in various stages of completion, plus a novel that's in dire need of editing. I'm still going to keep the most recent stuff in circulation as submissions to pro-paying genre markets (since it will take me a while to get to putting it up myself anyway), but I am going to focus on getting the older stuff up on Amazon and Smashwords.
I still hope to get a decent amount of writing done while I do this, but writing new work will be going from main priority to, erm... co-priority? So expect to see as much publishing talk as writing talk in the coming months. And expect to see lots more stories by yours truly go up online.
One final note: Putting my stories up is a huge motivator to write more stuff. The fact that I can log onto my author accounts and see a list of my work available to buy is, frankly, awesome. So perhaps this new pubbing focus will result in more fiction after all :)