Why I give away short stories and sell books?

The short answer to this question is effort. If you read my short stories then it might not be a surprise to you that I don’t spend a lot of time on them. The casual and simple mistakes that are in almost all of them come from the facts that:

1 – I don’t spell good, and

2 – I write them, read them maybe twice and then move on.

In some cases that amounts to less than 15 minutes from start to finish. I wrote some on my phone on a train within 4 stops. I’ve written some while sitting at a bar waiting for friends in less time than it takes to drink a beer. You could argue that I spent time over the week thinking about them, which is true, but unless a really interesting solid idea occurs to me, it doesn’t take up much head space.

Please, don’t misunderstand me, I still like them. When I do have that idea, that thought. ‘I know what I’ll write’ I’m excited to write it and share it, I love sharing my ideas and I do want to deliver the best stories I can and therein lies another reason to give them away. I want to share them with people.

So, if I love to share, why are my books for sale. Because of effort. Where a short story can be 15 minutes of effort Mostly Human took 2 years. And that was just the first draft. It took time and effort and deep introspection. I learnt and grew as a person in the writing and then went back and allowed that experience to reflect in the book. It wasn’t a casual thought I sometimes glanced at in my mind from time to time, it was a wolf constantly pacing in my head, demanding to be seen, to be thought of. And when it was done it got handed to people to judge it and give it back telling me to do better, and I did, and I spent a lot of money for the honour of having my work red-penned and being told to fix. I had to find a place in myself that was able to admit it was better, it does read better now that originally. I adopted strange physical habits to see how people responded so that I would know how characters in my book might respond. I had deeply uncomfortable conversations with people about menstruation about abortion and the death of a parent. I opened myself up to being wrong about everything and to find a way to translate my understanding into a story. And after all that, I put it all on display for literally anyone to pick up, look at, and judge. Some people really don’t like my work. There is a reviewer who cannot believe how carelessly I wrote about abortion because they refuse to believe that’s how it really works in real life and how I should have done more research. I didn’t know either to be fair, I do now.

And that’s just for one of my books, one of three that I’ve finished and published. There are others. Some abandoned, some still to be written. All in my head taking up constant space.

So why do I give away short stories but sell my books? Because a short story is a glimpse at an idea. It’s fun it’s quick and it’s impersonal, and because a book is a part of my soul that is on display for you to look at and judge.

But what do you think?

2 Replies to “Why I give away short stories and sell books? By D.I. Jolly”

  1. Hi David,
    I enjoyed reading your explanation of why you do what you do. Clearly a key motivation for writing short stories would be that you are obsessively engaged in writing and most importantly constantly growing as a writer, honing your skills to master your craft.
    To be honest, I have not read Mostly Human, as I have not been reading avidly. We have a copy and I will defintely give it a read in due course. I will be retiring in the near future and will have no excuse then.

    So pleased that you and Reid have been such firm friends for so long. It was great to see the photo’s of your holiday together in St. Petersburg.

    Keep up the good work. May your bestseller arrive soon.

    Best regards,
    Greg

    1. Hi Mr. Bauermeister,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, I’d been thinking about writing it for a few weeks.
      Reid is still one of, if not my dearest friend, St Petersburg was loads of fun and it was great seeing him.
      I’m hoping he comes to Berlin at some point over Northern summer.

      Retirement sounds interesting, I hope it suits you and to see you all soon.

      Jolly.

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