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Short Story Month: Your voice is one-of-a-kind, and it matters.

Author Abby R. Cooper shares advice to questions from Julie Duffy at StoryADay in May. Learn more about how to write short stories with us this month!

Q: What is your one go-to piece of general advice for young writers?


That sounds so silly, doesn't it?

Of course writers should write, just like singers should sing and athletes should play sports. But it's not always that easy. The blank page can be super intimidating!

I wanted to be an author my whole life, but somewhere along the line I got too anxious about the whole thing to actually write. I was worried my story wouldn't be interesting, or I'd run out of things to say, etc.

Eventually I learned that a first draft doesn't need to be perfect. (They never are, by the way, not even for published authors!) I'm so glad I finally convinced myself to write the story that was in my head. The first draft of Sticks & Stones was a mess, but it didn't matter. You can always go back and fix something, but you can't do that if it doesn't exist.

One other suggestion: READ! It's fun, and it also makes you a better writer.

Q: What if I feel I don’t have anything important to say?

A: Here's the thing. Even if you're writing about a rock, you are the only person who can write about that rock from your point of view, with your unique thoughts and feelings and descriptions and ideas. No one else in this world can write about that rock exactly like you.

You're probably wondering, well, who cares what I think about a rock? It's not about the actual rock—it's about you.

Your voice is special. It's one-of-a-kind. It matters.

(Related: some of the best stories I've ever read aren't about anything we typically consider important. Doesn't matter. If it's interesting to you, and you write it in your voice, it is important. And awesome. Really, really awesome.)

Q: Should I share my work? When, and with whom?

A: Absolutely! Sharing your work is so important.

It's really valuable to get feedback from people who don't know your story like you do. What do they like about it? What do they find confusing? Other people's thoughts and ideas can help make your story much stronger.

At the same time, sharing your work can be super scary. I hesitated for about a million years before I hit “send” the first time I sent a book to somebody. (Now that I think about it, I pause for about a million years every time I send a book to somebody!)

It's important to remember that people you share your work with genuinely want to help you make it better.

That being said, make sure you choose people you trust and respect. As for when, that's completely up to you!

I like to send things out once I've done everything I can do on my own. But maybe you'd prefer to share your story as soon as you finish the first draft. Maybe you want to wait until much later.

Or maybe you NEVER want to share. I know I suggested that you should, but it's also totally okay to keep your work to yourself. Sometimes you write just for you, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Writing Dare from Abby R. Cooper

Look around wherever you are right now and ask yourself “What if?” What if the chair you're sitting in made you invisible? What if the raindrops tapping your window were giving you a secret message? What if your closet was a portal to another world? Write a story where you answer one of your “What if?” questions.

author photo

Abby Cooper lives in Minnesota with her miniature poodle, Louis, and a whole bunch of books. A former teacher and school librarian, her favorite things in the world (besides writing) are getting and giving book recommendations and sharing her love of reading with others. In her spare time, she likes eating cupcakes, running along the Mississippi River, and watching a lot of bad reality TV. Photo credit: David Cooper. 

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