You broke up with your boyfriend/girlfriend, got divorced, were diagnosed with a terrible disease, won first prize in a contest, were fired from a job, and so on. Well, guess what? You have a great item to use in your next short story, novella, or even as part of a novel.
Don’t waste those personal experiences. And don’t spew them out on social media as if they were a symptom of your stomach flu or a bit of rotten food that your body was rejecting. All you do by such actions is portray not only your lack of professionalism but a need for hearing people say, “You poor thing!” (See my article Let Your Social Media Reflect You.) Remember that potential readers as well as literary agents and publishers will see that mess, not just your followers.
Worst of all, you are wasting content.
These personal experiences can be nuggets of gold. You may have to spin them a bit differently, though, for your work of fiction.
Example of What Not to Do
An author who seems to sell well recently posted a long rant on Twitter about being fired from her position teaching creative writing at a university. She relayed a story that was full of bitterness and that could have been told in one tweet. She used nineteen instead. Based on her rant, I have a vision of her books as long-winded, full of that bitterness, and a cry for the pity and sympathy of others. She also seems to think that because her books sell well enough for her to write full-time, that they have literary merit and that the man who fired her should feel really sorry about doing that now. It reeked of childishness and a big “Nyah – nyah!”
Example of What to Do
Think of what a great short story this would have made, one that could have been filled with hope. Something like this:
Years ago, I was a lecturer at a university. The world was my oyster, or so I thought. Eager young things hung on my every word and thanked me at the end of the semester. All the while, I wrote, and had in fact completed my second novel. The first one was published and had a modicum of success. Some of my students had read it and had found it a good example for their own work. This second novel built upon the first, and my editor had said it would sell even better.
This made the phone call from the Dean of the College an even bigger surprise than it would have been.
“Hi, Helen, got a minute?” he had asked.
“Sure, what’s up?” I had replied, but my stomach was suddenly in a knot.
“We’re letting you go.”
“Oh? What’ve I done?”
“Any complaints about me? Someone offended by something I said?”
“No, I said. There’s nothing.”
“There has to be something, or did you just pick my name out of a hat or flip a coin?” I asked, trying not to be snarky but unable to stop myself.
“No need to be like that. Finish the semester and move on.”
“There has to be something!”
The Dean hung up.
I fumed and then sat and cried. And then I stopped crying, dried my eyes, and said, “Screw him!”
The next day I heard that he had told one of the other lecturers that my novel hadn’t sold “big enough.”
“Don’t worry about it, Helen,” she said to me. “He’s a literary snob. He thinks the ideas aren’t big enough – you know, like Victor Hugo or something – and you didn’t get any literary awards.”
I smiled and thanked her. From that moment on, I saw this change as an opportunity, one of which I would make the most use. And I have.
Over the years, I continued my writing, focusing on stories that pleased me. Leaving the stuffy world of academia had turned out to be a very positive influence. I now make my living off of those “not big enough” novels. A literary critic recently said that I was the modern Danielle Steele but not nearly as good. I just laughed and counted my royalties again. After all, that’s what matters, isn’t it? And that critic could say whatever he wanted. People bought my books.
Time to get back to writing my next novel.
Now, doesn’t that sound better than a putrid rant on social media?
I try to be encouraging both on my site in these articles and on social media along with promoting my work and interacting with others in a mostly positive way. I’m hoping it will set an example for others. Obviously, she didn’t get the message, but hopefully you do. Use those experiences in a positive way. They could be the stuff of bestsellers.
Hope you found this helpful and have been inspired to start and/or continue writing!
Please check out my works in progress (WIPs). And thanks for reading.