Why I Write: The Benefits of Short Stories

 

WHY I WRITE #1 – Welcome to the first entry in this ongoing blog series designed to offer my perspective on the subject of writing. I also hope to inspire and aide fellow writers and readers to explore their creativity in new, exciting ways, and to help others achieve their goals and get their work published.

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“Why are you writing short stories?” I’ve gotten this question plenty of times from friends, fans and family. Some might blindly assume I’m either too afraid to write a full-length book, or simply too lazy. The reality is unequivocally neither. I’ve written three full-length books and two screenplays this year alone, and I plan on releasing six or seven short stories by year’s end, with about a dozen or more slated for 2014. All told, I probably write, or work on writing, for about 50-60 hours a week, if not more.

In truth, I just can’t stop writing. I write every single day, be it a blog entry, tweets, a screenplay, a book or a short story. Writing is like air to me, I can’t live without it. It doesn’t help that I’m an idea machine and I’m always jotting down stories, film and book ideas.

But why short stories? Well, my real goal with shorts is to create a base of writing samples that I can share with new readers, fellow writers, fans and potential agents and publishers who might be interested in reading or buying my work.

But also, my decision to focus on shorts is intentional beyond those motives. We live in a very busy time. Our attention is more divided than every before. There is so much content to consume, and more entertainment options. And, as much as some might argue to the contrary, we are also living in an economically depressed climate. It might not be labeled as such by the powers that be, but trust me, we are. If you’re in the middle class, or lower, you are likely feeling the damning effects of this on nearly every single aspect of your life. You are working hard to pay bills, pay off debt and still have enough coins to have some kind of fun on the weekends. In some cases, people are working two or even three jobs to pay for what little free time they have.

Between having no money, and having so many entertainment options, many have little-to-no time for things like books, or even movies or television. Taking this into consideration, I decided I would focus on bite-sized stories that can be read in a matter of hours.

This, I feel, is satisfying to readers because they get that sense of accomplishment from finishing a story. But also, a shorter story fits into our cramped schedule much better than a longer one. And, let’s be honest, not many people know who I am just yet. That will certainly change, but for now I’d prefer to give new readers a tasty bite of my writing abilities before asking them to indulge in a full-length book. I’ve also found that many readers feel the same way. They want to know if they even like my style, or the genres I’m working in, before they take the big plunge and dive into one of my books.

If you’re a fellow writer, I highly recommend trying your hand at a short story. If nothing else, it’ll get you writing every day and it’ll get you exploring your boundaries. Try a new style of writing, a different perspective, a type of character you aren’t familiar with, or even a different genre. When you’re finished (editing included – this is important), you can sell these stories for cheap (about a buck) on Amazon, and they’ll help your career in the long run. Binge readers can quickly enjoy your entire body of work, and the stories may lead to bigger things, like an agent or possibly a publishing contract. If nothing else, it allows you to have a body of work for sale on Amazon that readers, fans, friends and family can explore and enjoy.

And yes, you can charge for your work. Don’t be afraid of this. Even though I’m speedy and efficient, I spend around 80-120 hours (at least) prepping just one short story, from writing to editing to building the Kindle file to designing a cover and promoting the title. People work hard at their jobs. There is no reason you should not get paid for your hard work, either. But keep your stories cheap, please. I prefer the price point of $1. Anything more than $2 is excessive for shorts.

That’s essentially why I write short stories. I plan on publishing my books in the near future, but I am still in the very long, very taxing process of searching for agents and publishers. But, in the meantime, I am building an incredible body of work that will only help me achieve my goals. And I’m having a blast writing and sharing all my stories and ideas with you. So thanks for reading and please, if you publish a short, share it in the comments section below and I’ll be sure to promo the hell out of it to aide you in your own personal goals. Good luck!

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On the next, WHY I WRITE, I will discuss creating book covers for Kindle Edition books. Stay tuned!

–Also, if you haven’t already, check out my first short story, The Stray Cats (BUY HERE)!

TheStrayCatsCover

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Wicked Neighborhood #1 is out now!

Wicked Neighborhood #1The Stray Cats is now available on Amazon Kindle. The short story is just $.99!

Click Here to buy your copy!

And, if you like the short, please feel free to review it on Amazon, post a link on Facebook or Twitter, or write a review on your own blog. Spread the word if you want to see more issues of the series!

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A little back-story on The Stray Cats:

The short was inspired by an encounter my wife had with a small tabby cat one morning. She was taking out the trash when a loving orange cat came knocking on our door. Over the next few weeks, Callie (as we came to name her), would visit our home almost daily. Unfortunately, our cat DeDe (pronounced DD), isn’t the most friendly feline of the bunch, and even the sight of Callie outdoors seemed to rattle her ego a little too much, so we couldn’t take her in.

We tried to find Callie a home, but got very few bites. Sadly, after a few weeks, the orange tabby mysteriously disappeared. We hope she found a good home and is living and loving to the best of her abilities. She was easily the friendliest stray I have ever seen and I trust she found a good home.

Here are a few photos of Callie:

Callie's first encounter with my wife - this moment ended up in the story

Callie’s first encounter with my wife – this moment ended up in the story.

Callie on our deck.

Callie lounging on our deck.

Oddly, Callie isn’t the only stray that’s come to visit our humble home. There’s Poline, who sleeps every day on our trampoline, baking in the glow of the afternoon sun. There was also an absolutely adorable kitten who followed my wife and I for almost half a mile during one of our early evening walks. We didn’t even notice her, at first. Our neighbor asked us, “Who’s your friend?” I replied with confusion and our neighbor pointed out the small gray cat who was eagerly trailing behind us.

I began writing The Stray Cats out of a love and affection for felines, though I wanted to tell a story that wasn’t just cute and cuddly. I wanted something creepy … something a little scary. The Stray Cats represents a delicious blend of adorable and terrifying, and I truly hope you enjoy it. I also hope that, once you read the tale, you will contemplate the story’s bitter subtext.

What’s in store for Wicked Neighborhood #2?

The second issue of the series is tentatively titled “The Foot,” and will focus on Jennifer’s neighbor, Ernie Graham, a man with a rather curious ailment. Look for it in late October, just in time for Halloween!

Anthology series, Wicked Neighborhood, is coming!

The launch issue of my short story anthology series, Wicked Neighborhood, will be hitting the Amazon Kindle store very soon.

The first issue, The Stray Cats, follows Jennifer Riley, a young woman trying to pick up the shattered pieces of her life in the aftermath of an abusive husband. Despite her positive outlook, Jennifer feels an emptiness in her heart. That’s when Callie, an adorable tabby cat, appears on her doorstep seeking shelter. Jennifer gladly allows the feline into her home, but soon another cat shows up at her doorstep … and another … and another … and another. What is causing this strange preponderance of cats? Is it Jennifer’s bizarre neighbors, each one seemingly weirder than the next? Is it her own selfish desire to fill her lonely days? Or is there something far more deadly at play? … something fiendish lurking within the woods.

TheStrayCatsCover

Here is a sneak peek at the cover of Wicked Neighborhood #1!

The short stories will be split over seven issues, with the possibility for future “seasons” of Wicked Neighborhood if the stories prove popular.

The series is loosely inspired by/hyperbolized from my own neighborhood, a strange suburban cage located in northern Ohio riddled with more than a few odd birds. Each issue of the series will focus on one particular household seated on the seemingly quiet stretch of land known as Forest Street.

The upcoming stories are connected by characters, incidents and events on the street. That said, it is not necessary that you read every single tale in the series to delight in what I have in store for you … though you will be missing quite a lot of fun. Also, as future issues appear, you are welcome to read them in any order you desire.

I will update this blog as soon as The Stray Cats goes live on Amazon. Stay tuned!

Welcome!

Welcome to The Awkward White Man, a site created by writer Randy Shaffer.

Some of you may know me as that sniveling critic, R.L. Shaffer (insert insults here), from web zones such as DVDFuture or IGN. Yes, I am a former critic, but this site will be largely dedicated to my observations on the world of writing and film. I will also highlight old reviews I worked on, add a few more reviews every now and then (generally of stuff I dig), and offer news on any upcoming projects I’m working on.

Randy L Shaffer

Randy L Shaffer

About me:

All right. Let’s get real. For years I was a film critic. It was a job that I deeply loved, but eventually grew to loathe … not the profession, of course, though it does have its downsides (like getting paid dirt, for example). I greatly appreciate critics and the value that many of them offer to professionals, fans, upcoming artists and culture itself. But, it wasn’t a world for me. After more than ten years of writing reviews, I grew to deeply loathe myself for being a destroyer of creativity and art, the occasional spinner of negativity.

I absolutely loved reviewing content that I personally enjoyed. I relished in giving the camp classic, StarCrash, a perfect 10 score at IGN. But I hated tearing down films and TV from professionals who worked very hard to get something (even something bad) made. Creation, especially film production, is a feat that is not so easy, believe me.

I felt like I was part of this cultural movement comprised of destroyers. Purveyors of negative energy. That might sound corny, but just sit back and examine how we judge and ridicule ourselves, from the food we eat to the music and movies we enjoy. Some of this is necessary for cultural advancement and growth, but often it is largely mean-spirited and destructive. And most is just endless white noise. So, I made a conscious decision to choose the path less traveled — I wanted to be a creator, personal finances be damned.

For years I have been writing screenplays and stories, though none have been produced. I’ve gotten very close a few times, but no cigar. To my credit, I do have a music video to my name (see video below).

I’ve always been annoyingly afraid of success and, to be frank, I haven’t tried very hard to sell my work (yet). I could give you excuses as to why that is, but there’s no point. The past is the past. I reached a turning point in late 2012. I broke my hand in an embarrassing accident and found myself in a state of existentialism, re-evaluating who I was and what I wanted to be.

I decided to begin a book project centering on the world of swing culture (not dancing, mind you). This was a lifestyle I knew absolutely nothing about. I was, and still am, a big nerd and a huge movie geek, and the idea of people openly swapping spouses and attending sex clubs was about a foreign to me as things could get. That book was meant to segue me from the world of journalism to the world of book writing, and it worked! In 2013 alone I have completed three books: the non-fiction tale about swinging and sex culture, and two fiction novels. I’ve also completed several short stories, polished a screenplay, written an entirely new script, and I’ve got a few other projects up my sleeve before the year’s end, including one more book.

I’m not writing this blog to brag about myself, though I will shamelessly promo stuff I’ve worked on. But honestly, I write this blog to encourage. That’s what this site really is about. Any reviews I’ll post on here will be positive in nature. They’ll be pieces of entertainment and art that I like; things I love, and things that are important to me … or to culture. I’ll offer a different perspective than one you might have read about elsewhere. I might even defend some of those films I would have torn down in the past. I’ll also share with you books that I’ve read, from indie authors to well-known artists. I’ll offer news on any personal projects I’m working on. And I’ll discuss some great films on Blu-ray that I’m watching.

If you want some additional rants from me, follow my Twitter. I can certainly still be a critical bag of ass at times. After all, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and as a writer, I have more than a few. But this site is about the positive spirit of creativity, and all the wonders, perspective and joys of art. I hope you like what you find, and I hope this site inspires you to go and create.