Writing Posts

The Musings Behind “An Envelope’s Edge”

You guys might have heard that I wrote a short story the other day. But I didn’t just write one–I also posted it so that anyone in the world who wanted to read it, could (and still can). And I just have to, being the writer that I am, talk about what that meant to me and write a behind-the-scenes post, as you will. So hang on to your cables (get it, because…because…*bursts into sobbing at her own cruelty*); we’re about to head into the abyss of my own head.

When the prompt was first offered by Joyce for our first batch of stories–a picture of letters with burnt edges–my mind went in about 12 different directions. I ended up writing a 1,300 word story the same week, entitled “Papercut,” set sometime during the regency period, plotted around lost felt and love lost. Though it wasn’t originally inspired by this, I was also going through a confusing patch in my dating life in that time, and I won’t lie and say that elements from my own life didn’t sneak into the story. Regardless, I wrote a draft, read it over once and was content to let it sit before revising and posting it.

Fast forward to the Sunday before it’s my turn to post. The idea of opening up “Papercut” and reading it over left me cringing. And though I didn’t mind the story, I really wanted to write something different; something that encapsulated my writing style more accurately. My fellow Muses all wrote more within their elements and they all hit it out of the park. I call myself a fantasy and science fiction writer. So why couldn’t I write a short piece that was within those genres? Hell, why wasn’t that my gut instinct?

I realized that I, in fact, could write a science fiction or fantasy short story. I also discovered a pattern. I’ve always hated writing short stories. I’m not a short writer. I struggle with brevity. And any time I attempt a short story, it turns into 125,000+ words. When I was in college, I took some creative writing classes, all which focused on writing short stories. And while I never realized it then, I almost always wrote contemporary. It wasn’t until I took a class with Kij Johnson, a BAMF writer and mentor in her own right, that I felt I was given permission to write in my preferred genres, because she did. I felt I wouldn’t be judged for writing in something other than contemporary.

I know, I’m shaking my head, too. I was ignorant, then.

Still am, often enough, actually.

Once I took away that barrier, that foolish belief that my short fiction had to be limited by walls I built myself, my mind raced and suddenly my search history raised eyebrows. What happens if you bleed in space? What are all the ways you can die in space? What happens if your space suit tears? What is hypoxia? Needless to say, I had a blast writing that story, which clocked out to roughly 2,400 words. I loved feeling the story unravel before me after I latched onto the idea of dying in attempt to retrieve letters in space. I missed that feeling.

But then I remembered that I was going to post it for everyone to read.

And I thought of you.

Perhaps not you, specifically, but a pretty gosh darn good chance it was you, if you fall into the category of my regular blog followers and readers (if not, hello. It’s a pleasure to meet you and thanks for stopping by. Leave your own blog link in the comments below. I wanna check it out.). Because you guys have been awesome, interacting in the comment section, reading my posts even when they are ridiculously long, sharing them and, most heartwarmingly, enthusiastically supporting me and the Muses when we announced that we were starting a collaborative short story blog. As you know, writing–and the struggles and successes that go along with that–is what I write about most. So you’re not surprised that I’m a writer and that I write stories. You hear about that process all of the time. And you’ve supported me throughout, with your comments and discussion on this blog and on other social media.

Yet you’ve never actually read any of my work.

And it was that realization that made me want to delete the entire draft of “An Envelope’s Edge” and hide in a hole.

You know exactly what I feared without me spelling it out. It’s that horrible, awkward moment when your friend proclaims (or in my case, has been proclaiming for years) that they want to be a singer or a musician or a painter or a writer. And you’re enthusiastic and supportive and right there with them, as they start lessons or take classes or do research online. And when they finally have the courage to sing a song for you, show you their first painting or let you read a short story, you’re put in that horrible, awkward moment when you have to shatter their dreams by telling them they are missing a key component: an ounce of talent related to their craft.

Rereading my story before I hit “publish”, I was convinced that would be reaction from those whose opinions I’d come to cherish so fondly, the closest I’ve come to having “readers”: my blogging community. Don’t get me wrong. If that had been the case, I wouldn’t have been upset at any of you. I wanted an honest reaction, positive or negative (but hopefully tastefully and kindly delivered, regardless).

I’m sure you can imagine my relief and my joy when the reaction was actually what I dared to hope for. Enjoyment. Shock at the ending. But, best of all? A desire for more.

Thank you, dear reader, for following me on this journey of chasing dreams and humoring me as I record my emotions and reactions and musings on this blog throughout it all. Thank you for the conversations. Thank you for the support. And thank you for telling me you enjoyed my writing when you could have simply read it and moved on, without me ever knowing. I hope, with future stories–for all the Muses, mind, not just myself–that you will continue to spare a few moments of your time, speak your mind and share your thoughts, positive and negative. Because every thought helps me grow and pushes me forward. And I plan to reminisce about these moments on a book tour, one day.


15 thoughts on “The Musings Behind “An Envelope’s Edge””

  1. I just jumped over and read it then (pre-daylight in the morning :P) and it was wonderful! Great job Nicole 🙂 But you’re definitely right: finding the gumption to post our work for the eyes of others is always challenging, regardless of whether its on a blog or just asking some friends to read over something for us, because it opens us up to others’ opinions and criticisms of our work. It takes a lot of guts to be able to do that, but it also requires us to be grounded enough to accept any criticism or advice that then comes our way… Not always the easiest thing to do 😛 Regardless, awesome job and I loved this post! 🙂 xx

    1. You’re such a dear! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! ❤ Sometimes I wonder: "Can I make it as a writer, if I get so nervous about feedback?" But the best lesson I've learned, I think, is when someone is offering you feedback, positive or negative, is to simply listen. Take it in. Reflect on it. Muse. Ask questions. But don't respond to it until after you've taken time and done all of these things; until you can remove initial emotions, if you need to respond at all! But you're right, it's not an easy thing to do, but it is a thing we must, as writers and as artists! 🙂

      1. Exactly! Haha actually in the coming weeks/months I’m going to do a blog post about proofreading and dealing with feedback, because I completely agree! It can be a complex process 🙂

  2. That’s so funny that you say that you used to write contemporary short stories in college – I did too! Even though, on the side, I was secretly writing all of these magical realism stories. I just wanted to say again, here, that I LOVED your story and I really can’t wait to read more! 🙂

    1. Honestly, I still dunno why that was my gut instinct (probably because I was always tailoring to the professor). I am SO stoked for your next one. Your first one blew me out of the water!

  3. Even though I’ve already told you, I have to say it again for the whole world to see – I LOVED “An Envelope’s Edge” and absolutely believe you were born to be a writer. You cultivated such a feeling of suspense, I read the story so fast I had to go back and immediately read it again to make sure I didn’t miss anything! Keep it up girl!

    1. Olivia, I can’t tell you how much that means to me. Seriously. I’m going to remember this comment and come back to it on days when I question why I’m writing at all. You’re fantastic. ❤

  4. Okay, so I totally read the short story when it was posted, but I also totally didn’t actually comment on it. I was processing. I remember my reactions as being equal parts: 1) awe, and 2) I-want-to-throw-my-phone-across-the-room. In others words, IT WAS AMAZING.
    I definitely understand the emotions that come with sharing your work for the first time. I’m always nervous the first time I share something I’ve written (or otherwise created) with someone new. It’s nerve-wracking… In fact, that’s the reason I haven’t posted any of my work for public readership, myself. But it’s always been rewarding to share my work in other ways, even on the occasions when the reaction has not been the most positive. The feedback is still important and helpful! As far as “An Envelope’s Edge” goes… It was seriously fantastic. 🙂

    1. You crack me up. I’m so happy you had the throw-the-phone-across-the-room reaction. Best compliment ever. (It made me think of–and I am NOT comparing myself to this, because hello, I’m not here yet, but just the feeling–when I read Deathly Hallows and Rowling killed my character and I literally threw the book across the room, sat for a solid 30 second and then went, picked it up and sat on the floor where it’d fallen and kept reading. If I can ever get to THAT level of a response, I will be content).

      I think I’ll always have this feeling, whether it is a short story or a novel, no matter how many times I’m published or read, because while I may become more experienced in the process, every time I publish something, it’s new. It’s different. And the response can always change; the fun–and terrifying, yet freeing–aspect of writing.

      Thank you! ❤

  5. Reading this post reminds me of something I once heard. I can’t place where or who, but someone said “If you’re not scared you’re not doing it right” or something to that affect.
    I think you should really be commended. You had a story, a safe story, and instead you chose to push further, to require more of yourself, and the results are impressive, and maybe a little intimidating, but certainly refreshing.
    I think the phrase “given permission” really stands out to me. I thinking giving ourselves permission is an ongoing theme with writing, and maybe other creative endeavors as well.
    It’s interesting to hear you talk about fearing harsh criticism. I often fear the opposite. On some basic level, I feel that I have far to go still, even if I can’t see the way, so in some ways less favorable criticism are a reassurance for me, “ooh, sign posts.”
    Of course there is something raw about a story freshly finished, and sometimes I will share it with someone “safe” first, but eventually I do have to send it out into the world.
    Thank you for sharing your story with us.

    1. I definitely know which quote you’re talking about. There are tons out there about risk and fear and that you have to experience those things to get what you want.

      That’s really intriguing, how you view constructive criticism. It’s a really positive way to look at it. I may need to adopt that.

      Thanks for reading the story, and this blog, as always providing such in-depth thoughts! 🙂

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