I am writing because I just love writing. I am writing short fiction because I love reading short fiction and novels and I have realized that it would be great if I could see my own name on the cover of a novel or under the title of a short story published on the Web or in print. These must be the easiest answers you can give when asked why you are writing short fiction and why you are writing in the first place. But of course, there are deeper and more important reasons for writing. Here in this article, I will share with you the ten reasons why I should write and why I have started writing short fiction.
1. Why Not? Why Am I Not Writing?
I am writing because … why not? Anybody who can write can write a composition. In grade school, we have writing assignments called “theme writing” or “school writing.” I just don’t know if you remember this or if you ever had this kind of writing assignment in your grade school days. The teacher would ask you to write an essay with at least five paragraphs about a particular topic such as “What did you do on Christmas Day and how is it important to you?” It is an assignment, so all the students in class are required to write a composition. I don’t remember if I already knew then that I wanted to be a writer, but I really enjoyed theme writing because I thought that the English teacher was a really good one. What is exciting about theme writing is the grade and the feedback the teacher gives your composition. Now the question is how good—or how bad—you are at writing. Well, the grade and the comment on your assignment will always tell you the answer.
Why not write if you can? If you know you can write, then write. It does not matter if it is a diary or a journal or if you write to get published and share your work with other people. If you think of having a serious writing career, then you should start writing now because in writing there is always room for improvement. You cannot be an excellent writer right away. Like dancing or singing or acting, writing requires practice. If you can write but do not enjoy doing it or are being lazy doing it—gosh, I was this for six years, and it was such a waste—then don’t push yourself. If you are really meant to be a writer, inspiration will strike you like a stroke of lightning. By then you cannot do anything but write down all those ideas that render you distracted while doing something else or talking to a friend or make you unable to sleep at night. Worse, you dream of all those scenes that are meant to be written as short fiction. And what if you are meant to be a horror fictionist? Yikes! Make the nightmare stop and go away by writing about it instead.
2. I tried to write a story in script form by copying a soap opera when I was in grade school.
In grade school, before I learned how to properly read a novel—The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende was my first read in English ever—I was into soap operas like my mother, my aunts, and my grandmother. We could not miss a single episode of Lazos de Amor. I would even be absent from school just to watch an afternoon Mexicanovela (a Filipino term used to refer to Mexican TV series aired in the Philippines). Those scenes were always in my head even after talking about them with some friends. And so I tried to write my own version of the soap opera. But of course, I failed to finish it. I was just copying the soap opera I liked anyway.
Copying, if you do it now as a published writer, you will be a terrible one. But all kinds of copying is such an enjoyable thing to do when you are very young. For instance, you tend to copy your favorite dancer’s signature move or your favorite singer’s signature technique or style of singing. In my experience, it didn’t happen only once. Sometimes I just changed the names of the characters and a few parts of a scene in a story I’d read. I can say that in my case, it all started from copying. At some point in high school, I realized that I wanted to become a writer because I tended to write my own version of a story from a book, a newspaper, a magazine, radio, or TV.
3. I want to express myself through writing.
Artists express themselves in different ways. Painters express themselves through painting, writers express themselves through writing, singers express themselves through singing, and so on. I believe that there is always that kind of person who wants to express herself. And that what makes an artist. She just has to recognize her gift and inclination.
By expressing ourselves through writing, we share with other people our ideas and emotions and how we view the world. Writing can also be an outlet for our anger and frustrations. It is true that a writer can make up an evil character based on the person she hates. Likewise, she can make a hero for her story based on the person she adores. Personally, I wrote a short story based on my personal experience involving a childhood friend. It is still under consideration of a few publications. Now I wonder when it will finally be published—I’m really hoping. Aside from reading, a writer can always get inspiration from her own experiences.
4. I tend to make up a story out of anything said or discussed among friends.
If you haven’t started writing yet but you are meant to be a writer, there is always one or two among your friends who will tell you to go be a writer because you tend to make up a story out of anything. This is totally me. A friend cracks a joke, and I laugh because it is really funny. But before realizing it, I’m already adding details to the joke, making up a story out of it just to make the other friends laugh harder. Strangely sometimes, when I get home, I recall the details I have added to the joke and realize I can write a real story about the joke.
This may not be true for everybody because there are those who are born comedians. An effective joke comes with good narration. Still, in my experience, I can write a story just based on jokes my friends or I make. If a close friend tells you that you can be a writer and you somehow think of being one, then at least try your hand at writing. You will know if you have to pursue it once you do it.
5. I have always wanted to write short stories ever since I read the classics.
I read The Last Leaf by O. Henry in sixth grade, The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant in my third year in high school, and The Cask of Amontillado by Egdar Allan Poe in my last year in high school. I read them not because I wanted to. They were included in English lessons, and the students were assigned to make a review on them. But since then, I have loved short stories and wanted to write one someday. That time, specifically when I had to read a short story that I did not like that much, I would ask myself why a short story would be that long. The pages wouldn’t seem to end. But the three short stories I have mentioned seemed different. I even wanted them longer, just how I want my Korean dramas longer when I like them so much.
I have always wanted to write short stories since the three classics, but my 2011 publication came in first. I was able to publish a Filipino novel, and I was so proud of myself then. Honestly now, I don’t even want to read what I wrote there in the novel. I wanted to write a short story because I finally understood that writing short stories could test my brevity as a writer. In a short story, every word counts. And there is always the cutting back phase in short fiction writing, which is really hard for me to do in the present because I consider myself a wordy writer.
6. I am writing short fiction in preparation for a much bigger writing career—novels.
Although I was able to publish a Filipino novel in 2011, I have yet to write my first-ever novel in English. In the Philippines, we call a 96- or 128-page novel a “pocketbook.” It is just 20,000 to 24,000 words, and in the international literary community, it is rather a novella. In a way, Filipino writers are tested in terms of their brevity because of the required length of a Filipino novel. They have to fit everything in just 20,000 to 24,000 words. I definitely look up to many Filipino novelists, and one of them even became my idol. I cried when I saw her in person for the first time.
Writing a novel is much longer and tougher than writing a short story. You may not be ready to write a novel yet, but believe me, you can be ready to write short fiction. Short fiction can be a drabble, micro-fiction, flash fiction, and short story. In 50 words, try to write a story. If that’s too few for you, then try 101 words, like my micro-fiction Mistaken. In my opinion, writing short fiction is a way of writing something about a plot that you have suddenly thought of. Instead of just jotting it down, you write a complete short story with that idea or plot. Later on, you may go back to that short story and develop it to become a novel.
“Love and friendships melt with an unexpected frankness, and leave us breathless, wondering why. Good story, Charita. This could be the Moment of Grace [MOG] for a short story or a novel.” — rauthor68 on 101 Words
Above is a comment on the 101 Words website on my micro-fiction Mistaken. Readers know when a story has the potential to become a novel. I also let one of my bosses at work read a few of my stories. Although he had many suggestions on how to improve those stories of mine, he said that one of them felt more like an excerpt of a novel. He said that my stories could be turned into screenplays. Of course, I was flattered. He was like saying I had created a really good plot that could be novel-worthy or movie-worthy.
7. It has always been for the glory of the byline.
One of the sweetest glories in the world is the glory of the byline. Nothing more can make a writer proud of herself than to see her name on the cover of a book or right under the title of an article or a story published on the Web or in print. During my college days as a journalism major, I obtained the glory of the byline for the first time when my news articles were published in The Manila Times and The Sunday Times. When you have that achievement for the first time, you want more. You want to experience again how good it feels to obtain the glory of the byline. When you see your name as the author of a literary piece or an article, you look at that name intently as if you worry it might suddenly change into a different name or it might suddenly disappear. Why, you can’t believe that’s your name in there, especially when it’s your first-ever publication.
8. I want to strengthen my credentials as a writer and an editor.
Professionally, I am an editor and writing quality assurance specialist of English essays, but it is different from being an editor of fiction. One cannot be an editor of fiction just because she is an editor of essays or articles. Creative writing is different from essay writing. The former is an imaginative expression of the writer’s thoughts, emotions, and knowledge, while the latter is the writer’s way of giving information or sharing knowledge of a particular topic that she knows well or has researched on.
I personally want to become a fiction editor someday. If I want to become one, then I have to publish lots of fiction first. To become a relevant fictionist, I have to be an established writer and editor. To become an established writer and editor, I have to write more and improve my writing. Like I have said above, there is always room for improvement in writing. You do not even need to have a friend or an expert check on your writing because you yourself can see your mistakes and shortcomings as a writer when you check your work after a while. In short fiction writing, you should not check your work for errors, ambiguity, loop holes, and inconsistency right after you finish it because you might not see them. I finished Concrete Frustrations, a weird story told in the point of view of “the walls” of a house, on May 15, but my most recent revision on the piece was on June 27. I was able to cut back on some sentences. Still, I am not yet confident to send it out to publications because I feel that it is not polished yet.
9. I want the name “Charita Gil” to be popular as an established fictionist’s name.
On an even more personal note, I want “Charita Gil” to be known by many people. I have always been proud of my parents, and writing as Charita Gil is my way of showing gratitude to them. My family and close friends know the story behind the name, and they understand why I am doing this. My father was an artist in his own right, and he was very talented. I was given a different kind of gift of art, and I always remember my father when I write. If he were still here with us, I would probably ask him to make me a logo for this website. And I mean draw it by hand; he was that good as an artist.
10. I want to inspire people the same way other people inspire me.
Being an inspiration to someone is almost as great as obtaining the glory of the byline. If I am inspired to write by other people, then I also have to inspire other people in any way possible. If they also want to be writers, then I want to inspire them to start writing as early as now. Through these articles published here, my stories, and my poetry, I want to touch people, showing the real me, sharing with them my emotions and ideas, and letting them know how I see the world as a writer and as a normal person.
I also love singing, but at this point in my life, I sing only to my family and friends. I know it will never be an effective way of expressing myself, so I hope that my writing will. Besides historical TV series and Korean dramas, music has always been a source of inspiration to write. Sometimes a line of a Céline Dion song can inspire me to write a whole piece of short fiction. Concrete Frustrations is actually inspired by Céline Dion’s If Walls Could Talk.
I think I can give more reasons for writing, but I mean to give only ten in this article. I am sure that you have your own reasons for writing. If you do not see any reason yet, then I hope that this article makes your realize something important about writing. I also hope that you start writing now because you can, you have a talent for writing, and you enjoy doing it. If you come up with more reasons for writing, especially short fiction, please comment below. I would always like to hear your thoughts. Or you can email me if you are curious about anything—even if it is off topic—or simply want to know or ask me about anything.
Header Image: Quino Al