Getting Outside Your Comfort Zone (part 5): Exploring the opposite

Hi, and welcome to the RADblog! I’m Rani Divine, back for the rest of the year to talk to you about whatever I choose. You’re at my mercy, friends. But don’t worry; we’ll have some fun.

For the next four weeks, I’ll be talking to you about comfort zones, and why they’re both a good thing and a bad thing. We’ll also be looking at a few exercises I’ve come up with to help you get outside your comfort zone and to grow as the amazing writer you are. We’re all in a learning process, every step of the way.

By now we’ve decided that though comfort zones can be a good thing, they can also be very bad for our writing careers if we don’t find a way to break out of them—and we’ve started looking at exercises to help us get outside those comfort zones and grow ourselves as writers. Because if we’re not growing, we’re only staying stagnant. And nobody wants that.

 

Comfort Zones: Exploring the opposite

 

There are two primary kinds of authors, reading this blog post. Those also just so happen to be the two kinds of authors I associate with, the kind of authors I understand, because I’m like those authors. I’m both a novelist and a short story writer. And if you don’t believe me, then pick up your nearest copy of Mavguard, and check out the RADstore. I do both. I write a lot of short stories, but my happy place is novels.

Yeah, you read that right. Novels are my comfort zone—which is why I dabble in short stories.

And that’s what we’re talking about today. On the subject of getting outside your comfort zone, for writers, this is one of the biggest ones around. We like to stay with what we know, when it comes to this kind of thing. We’re either happy with novels or we’re happy with short stories, and we really don’t want to swing the other way unless we absolutely have to.

Well guess what? Now you have to. I’m telling you to.

 

Let’s look at it from both sides, shall we?

 

For the novelists:

You’re great when it comes to writing lots of words to describe your settings, on writing extensive exposition and dialogue for days, all to make your worlds come alive and your stories shine before the eyes of your readers. You’re accustomed to writing as many words as it takes, because you know it’s not about the word count, it’s about the story within.

And that’s the problem.

You need to learn to be succinct, to shorten your word count and describe the same scene in half as many words. You need to know what words, sentences, phrases are important and need to be kept and what ones should be cut without a second thought.

You guessed it—the best way to do that, is to write short stories.

 

For the short story writers:

You’re amazing at writing succinctly, sharply, honing and refining your sentences into exactly what they need to be, to ensure you don’t go over your word count. You’re used to cutting things that need to be cut, only describing things that are necessary for the story, and saying exactly what needs to be said, because you know you only have a limited number of words, to tell a story that’ll change peoples lives.

And that’s the problem.

You need to know how to be wordy, how to lengthen your sentences and allow yourself to delve into more words than you ever thought possible to fit into a single sentence. You need to explore both your run-ons and your fragments, to describe things with beauty and passion and a wordiness that only comes from not having a word count at all.

You guessed it—the best way to do that, is to write a novel.

 

That’s all there is to it. We writers need to be proficient in both, which is why I so often sit down and write a short story, just to see that I can still do it, that I still know how to make sure a whole story fits into such a short amount of words.

I’ll always go back to novels, in the end—but I’m not saying you should never look back. I’m saying you should explore, expand, and learn something that’ll help you more than you ever thought it could, along the way.

 

Rani Divine
Associate Editor, etc.