Sign up for my Newsletter and Receive Exclusive Content!

Hard…the long and the *short* of it!

Hard might well be the worst word in the English language. Especially considering it’s a four letter word, which are some of my favorite words even though they often get a bad rap. I feel confident in sharing that I’m not the only one who feels this way about ‘hard,’ because look at science. Diamonds are hard, granite is hard, and a wooden board is hard; but that doesn’t help anyone as far as a useful descriptor for those three substances. So, scientists introduced density, and that definitely puts a new spin on how hard a substance happens to be.

Yet, there are many experiences throughout life which we describe as being hard, but the word falls so far short of the mark, it isn’t funny. Yes, we mean it’s difficult, but even difficulty has varying degrees to it but no firm measure with which to give us all proper perspective. Being a parent is difficult, and that’s an understatement…see, difficult falls short too! However, when I was preggers, two women came forward and said, the first three to four months would be the hardest thing I’d ever done. (Where these words of wisdom were when I was merely contemplating motherhood, I don’t know. I suspect it’s a strange sub-corollary to Darwinism. No fellow species member will tell you anything that might prevent the furthering of the species.) Anyway, fast forward to my offspring being six months old and nearly three-weeks of uninterrupted sleep, and I realized, ‘Holy cow! That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and look at me! I survived it!’ Still, then and now, keeping a small human alive without more than three hours of sleep day-in and day-out is not adequately described by the four-letter word hard. Seriously, I didn’t mean to write yet another post that refers back to being a mommy…but here we are!

In addition to telling you something will be hard, people also say things like, “I’m gonna write a book someday.” It’s not uncommon (if I’m not mistaken, there’s a stat which claims 9 out of 10 people want to write a book…since I can’t remember the source I’m reluctant to be vehement about that stat), and I wish them all well. There are those who say things, direct or indirect, intimating that they perceive writing to be easy. If I dislike hard for being a hollow word in the English lexicon, I think ‘easy’ falls in the #2 or #3 position. Okay, hard isn’t really hollow, but if it were a food, it would be considered to contain “empty” calories, that’s how I feel about it. Very little is “easy” about writing. I’ve known this, and yet I enjoy this endeavor that can be nerve-wracking and irritating. Until very recently that is.

Warning: I’m gonna go off topic a bit…this is not surprising, if you’ve read any of my books or other posts. Common advice to writers is to start a newsletter. The newsletter is no good until you have subscribers, and the most common advice to gain subscribers is to offer free content. With that “free content” in mind, I started working on a short story, about a year ago now. On the one hand, I should’ve mapped out the short story much better, but on the other hand, I live for my characters to ‘drive’ the proverbial bus. Which is to say, I let them tell me where the story is going. Lo and behold, I knew I was at the halfway point of the ‘short story’ which was when I noticed my word count exceeded 10,000 words! What I also knew, was that I had at least another 10,000 more to go. That put me well outside short story land. It also meant I needed someone else to edit it. Editing costs money, so was I going to spend money on something I wouldn’t be able to recoup the investment money from? Nope. That may have been short sighted of me, but bottom line, Trixie and Roll had a story, I knew it was complex and there was no way it would exist in a short story format.

Now, back to the word “hard.” It’s hard to write a book. It is hard, most of the time because it requires consistency and dedication. I can do that. In fact, I have done that for five different books. Six if we count the book I’m never going to publish which I wrote in my twenties. Where ‘hard’ falls terribly short in my mind is the act of taking the first half of a short story and stretching it into a sixty to eighty thousand word document. You could say it’s like pulling teeth, but I’m inclined to think it’s more akin to pulling taffy. I’ve never pulled taffy (yet), but I feel like this process has been terribly similar. There are many portions of the short story I’ve expanded. Some of that expansion came from embellishment, some of it came from adding more back story. The difficulty has been in how those stretches or additions have failed to enhance the plot.

Yet, I feel like something is missing. I feel as though the issues my characters have are not enough. That is not something I normally feel during my writing process. It has forced me to slow down, and it remains to be seen, but I suspect it might force me to move from allowing these two beloved characters to drive the story which will force me to use an outline. I hate that idea. As it stands, I’ve developed a timeline which is normally as close to an outline as I will get.

Another instance of “stretching” which has been difficult for me is embellishing scenes from the short story which were written with brevity in mind. You might say, “Gee, that shouldn’t be difficult, Karen.”The thing is, the first time a relationship is consummated by the hero and heroine the readers deserve to get the goods on that consummation. Whether they think they deserve those goods or not, there are a large number of readers who demand to have the goods on the first time the couple gets physical. There are many issues between Roll and Trixie, but the framework I set up within what should have been a short story have left me beating my head against a wall in terms of doing justice to their first time together.

There are other issues within the story that are giving me the ‘beating my head against a wall’ feeling, and I’m unaccustomed to that feeling being so prevalent while drafting a manuscript. Don’t get me wrong, it happened while writing my other books, but it was relegated to one or possibly two plot hurdles and once those were cleared, the book kept moving along. The upside, to this more widespread feeling of head-beating, is that I’m learning to embrace this feeling, and I’m learning from it at the same time. If, in the future, I decide to write a short story, you can bet your bippy (whatever a bippy actually is) that I’ll stick with the short story angle. If I’ve started a short story only to realize it should be a full-fledged book, I’ll scrap every bit of the short story and begin a novel. This pulling a novel out of the shell of a short story is for the birds…or the candy-makers with their taffy, one or the other! But seriously, it’s hard…except ‘hard’ doesn’t really do it justice!