Writing My Novel: But That’s Not My Novel!

Writing (Blog Key) In addition to my blogging hiatus, I have pretty much been on a general writing hitaus.  My novel still sits in Google Docs, a collection of nearly eleven thousand untouched words, taunting me to write.

Now that I am getting back into blogging and reading for fun, my desire to work on fiction has steadily resurfaced, too.  Unfortunately, my What-I-Want-To-Do ADD has kicked in, and I am bouncing multiple ideas around, trying to find one that would work the best.

Current fixation: compiling various short stories I have written over the years, editing them, and publishing them as an ebook.

Current problem with current fixation: it might be a stupid idea.

First off, let me be clear: I don’t think this will be an easy task.  At the moment, I have seven short stories I would like to compile into an ebook.  While some of them are in pretty good shape already, most of them need extensive revision before I would consider them readable.  So it’s not as though I’m throwing 25k words together and trying to sell it on Amazon.com.

Which brings me to one of the main problems with this idea: time investment.  Revision takes time, and while I’m not overjoyed at thinking of myself as a self-published author, I can see a decent bit of marketing coming from simply getting some high-quality short stories out there. Especially seeing as how quickly and easily low-price Kindle books sell.  Unfortunately, to get these stories into the “high quality” category, I am going to have to spend long hours revising and rewriting some of them.Writing Pen

Long hours that could be spent finishing the first draft of my still-unfinished manuscript.

Long hours that could be spent seeking freelancing jobs and honing my copywriting skills.

Long hours that could be put into writing specific genre short stories for submission to actual magazines and journals.

Long hours that will quickly grow short.

Why then, you might ask, if time is so precious, do I not simply edit these stories and submit them for magazine/journal publication?  Because I screwed up when I was in college. I have a writing.com portfolio that is now all but empty.  Unfortunately, back in the day, it wasn’t.  So my stuff was fair game for anyone and everyone to see.  And because of it being public, I lost first publishing rights.  And almost every magazine worth its salt for newbies like me requires first publishing rights (or at least first electronic rights which are gone, too, obviously).

Long story short: it’s already been technically published, even though it is no longer available, so no publishers will have me.

The other problem I see with this is that the stories are eclectic.  They do not really share a common theme.  One’s a romance, some are horror, and there’s even a children’s story in there.  I am not familiar enough with short story anthologization theory (What? I teach English, so I’m allowed to make up words and/or entire fields for them) to know whether or not this is suicide.  I’ve read some collections that are tightly themed and read almost like a novel.  Others not so much.  Writing Notebook

But for a $0.99 ebook, does that matter?  You’d better believe it does! If for no other reason than it would be out in the world with my name on it.  And I refuse to put my name on something that’s shoddy.  It’s just not how I work.  Even a self-epublished short story collection deserves my best effort.

But, even with these potential pitfalls, I see a positive side.  Having  a collection out there in people’s hands would give me legitimate feedback on what works well (and what doesn’t) with my writing, as well as get at least a few people interested in my future fiction.  I would then have a relatively successful blog, a (hopefully) selling ebook, and a platform with which to approach agents and publishers for my other work.  At least two of which, I am told, are quickly becoming necessities for new authors.

So I don’t know.  One part of me screams for the legitimacy that finishing my manuscript and working toward finding an agent would bring, while another is simply gleeful at the idea of having people just read and enjoy my writing.  Of course, there is always the idea of posting my short fiction here, too.

Which brings me to the question of the day: what do you all think about this idea?  Should I go for the ebook, or should I push out all new material and get that novel finished and a new short story published over the summer?

By B.J. Keeton

B.J. KEETON is a writer, teacher, and runner. When he isn't trying to think of a way to trick Fox into putting Firefly back on the air, he is either writing science fiction, watching an obscene amount of genre television, or looking for new ways to integrate fitness into his geektastic lifestyle. He is also the author of BIRTHRIGHT and co-author of NIMBUS. Both books are available for Amazon Kindle.


  1. I would not recycle your older material, especially as you already mentioned the (legal) pitfalls.

    So go for new material – your *new* short story, published over the summer. Maybe it will even be related to your novel? You could use some ideas and inspiration you gathered while writing your older short stories.

    I would really rather work on your novel and/or a short story than recycling your former short stories, even if they were pretty good already.

    1. I’m leaning that direction. And you’re right; writing a short story based around my novel’s character/world may be a really good way to gauge interest in my projects!

  2. I really want to take a holiday off work and try writing a short story to publish as an eBook so I’m tempted to encourage you to do the same and get your stuff out there. I reckon once you can overcome the first hurdle, it will be easier to write a full length book. Of course, it depends on whether you’re satisifed with your short stories. I know exactly where you’re coming from when you talk about being tough on yourself. I’m exactly the same way! I don’t even like publishing blog posts I’ve rushed (and that happens a lot).
    .-= We Fly Spitfires´s last blog ..The Best Of The Rest: Bread And Whine Edition =-.

    1. I’m not teaching this summer, so I am going to be trying it. While I will be traveling and attending conferences in addition to getting our house more livable, I do intend to keep a fairly rigid writing schedule. I know that John Scalzi has a 2k-before-noon quota, and I think I may do the same thing.

      I’m with you about the first hurdle thing, too. I’m so torn on how to try and get myself a platform.

      What I need is a SF/F author I respect to put out a list of potential magazines that accept newbie work. There are so many to choose from.

  3. I agree with Longasc, keep moving forward with your novel, the short stories will still be there in a few year’s time should you ever want to exhume them.

    I think your desire to begin reworking your short stories could just be cold feet over pushing on with the novel, it must be terrifying to think of completing a 25k word book.

    Just keep moving forward with your novel and I’m sure everything will fall into place.

    AlsoI came up with 2 questions while reading your older posts earlier (don’t worry about them if you’re pushed for time though):
    Which is your favourite Dark Tower novel?
    Do you, as an english academic, feel that your education/career gives you a different perspective on how to approach writing a novel?

    1. 25k is actually pretty short. If I stick with my YA designation I started with, I should be shooting for around 75k minimum for SF/F. It is pretty intimidating considering I only have 11k drafted at the moment.

      My favorite Dark Tower novel? It’s really a tie between Books 3 and 7. I love the “Empire Strikes Back” feel that Book 3 has, along with the parallels to T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland.” Book 7, though, just fits perfectly. I know some people really dislike the ending and consider it to be a cop-out of sorts, I find it wonderful and don’t see how the series could have ended any other way.

      And yeah, I think being an English teacher/academic really does change my approach to writing. It changes how I look at literature as a whole, making me care about structure a lot more. I can’t read for fun these days without dissecting a book (even simple franchise novels, as much as I would like to), so writing it falls into that same category. I’m afraid to write in a lot of ways because I know what bad writing is and, more than that,*why* it’s bad writing. I’d hate to be unable to practice what I preach, you know?

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