[Don't miss your chance to enter the Writer's Digest Short Short Story Competition
—deadline Dec. 15.]
In the editor's letter from the January 2018 issue of Writer's Digest, Tyler Moss challenges writers to dive into their work without fear.
When I was in third grade, I was hit in the mouth with a baseball.
I’d love to say it was from diving for a grounder or crowding the plate while a pitcher served me a wild fastball, but it was nothing so glamorous: During warmups, I absent-mindedly wandered between two teammates playing catch.
The damage was minimal—just a split lip, a sore jaw and the ensuing tears—but it was the shock of it that really stuck. It had never occurred to me that the sport I loved could cause bodily harm, and from then on the prospect of being hit again struck such fear in me that I became absolutely useless on the diamond. I cowered from pop flies and shivered in the batter’s box as pitchers pelted strikes in my direction.
This overt anxiety didn’t go unnoticed by my mother, who was not one to stand around and watch me mope. She pulled out my dad’s old glove and dragged me into the backyard, insisting we toss the baseball for an hour, daily. At first I whimpered every time she chucked it over, but gradually, the weeks of practice paid off. I became more self-assured, more skilled, and a month later I was able to return to the field with new, improved capabilities. Without fear.
Advice from Deb Caletti, page 21
In this month’s Writer's Digest Interview (Page 42), The Martian author Andy Weir told me, “There’s this feeling in the world that artistic ability is just a gift and there’s nothing else to it. I think that it’s a skill set. It’s a thing you need to learn how to do—you need to get better at it.” Maybe fear of rejection is your baseball in the mouth. Or it’s anxiety that you lack the creativity and dedication to follow through. Doubts that are holding you back. Weir wrote two other novels before The Martian—two manuscripts both met with rejection, now banished to a folder on his PC. Practice novels.
As we slide into 2018, remember that you are an artisan. Writing is your craft, and every word—every chapter—further sharpens that skill set. It’s this same enterprising spirit that drove Editor-at-Large Jessica Strawser—whose face used to don this very page—to persist through her own drawer-exiled manuscript, and who is now working full time on her third book with St. Martin’s Press. Every master was at one point a novice. Forget agents and publishers: Prove to yourself you have the drive to write that novel. This year is your year.
And this issue is your backyard. The place where you can hone your craft, build confidence, find inspiration. You’ll learn why every story has worth (Page 20), and how to pull more from your paragraphs (Page 24). Discover how to place your characters in harrowing binds (Page 32), deliver jaw-dropping twists (Page 28) and handle hot-button issues with the deft care they deserve (Page 36).
So stop hiding behind the backstop. A new year is nigh, and we have no doubt you’ll knock your novel right out of the park.