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The Short and Sweet of It


The Short and Sweet of It

Sara General


Earlier this week after listening to a series of TED Talks on the subject of writing, I had an epiphany.  I was doing some intensive and slightly mundane work on my manuscript because I wanted to order prints of it from Lulu for myself and beta readers but I hadn’t formatted it properly and some of the corrections had to be done by hand.  It seemed like a good time to catch up on the ideas worth sharing scene.   The first TED Talk I listened to was about the importance of there being Many Stories and the dangers of a single story.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been reading a lot of articles about self-publishing and traditional publishing to try determine which option would be best for the story I’ve been working on.  In trying to understand where my story fits in the grand scheme of things, I’ve encountered important information about editing, genres, word counts, writing blurbs, formatting and marketing.

I can say without hesitation that I’ve loved every second of this part of the experience because it’s taught me so much.  For instance, I’d never heard of the genre ‘cozy mystery’ but when I took a look at my bookshelf, I realized that it’s one of my favourites (I’m thinking here of the Aurora Teagarden or Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris).

All of this research also raised some questions about the limitations of genres – at least where my story is concerned.  I am a Haudenosaunee woman from Turtle Island (North America).  When I was growing up, there were not a lot of books about my people, our experiences, our knowledge, our ways of knowing or our legends and much of what did exist was problematic (reinforcing stereotypes, perpetuating colonialism, attempting to rationalize assimilation, etc).  Instead of reading stories about my people, I read a lot about other people and other worlds (which isn’t a bad thing in the least), but I definitely feel it would have been cool if more had been available.

Naturally, because these are the kinds of stories I wish I could have read they ended up being the stories that I’m writing.  For a little while, I was worried about what traditional publishing routes would be available for stories of this nature since there are few publishers that make a priority out of Indigenous literature.

Ultimately, this is where my epiphany comes in.  I listened to the TED Talk and realized that it was okay if my book wasn’t a publishing sensation.  What was most important to me is that there was more than a “single story” about Indigenous Peoples and that I use the tools available to me to write and share the best stories possible.   Even if my first one happens to have a 24 year-old protagonist and my word count is hovering around 55,500 (which from everything I’ve read is a bit short for an adult novel and a 24 year-old protagonist doesn’t quite fit within the traditional definitions of the Young Adult category).

Now it’s certainly possible that in my third draft, I might add another 25,000 words and set it squarely in an adult word count category.  But it’s very possible that I won’t, we’ll just have to see what the next few weeks bring.  Until then, I’m going to try to not beat myself up over what my story isn’t and try to focus on making what it is really shine.

Til next time, happy writing!