Friday Speak Out!: Start Small But Dream Big

Friday, March 15, 2019

by Cassandra Lee Yieng

When we lack the time to write the books we envision, we're tempted to blame our day jobs, the family members under our care or other weighty matters. With every passing year, with every outline or draft we put aside, we doubt our calling to share our stories. Other writers' accomplishments only breed jealousy. When will we realize our literary aspirations?

Too often, we rush headlong into a novel or memoir, but short-form writing, which includes blog posts, poems, flash fiction and short stories, is a better starting point for aspiring writers.

Unlike novels, shorter pieces take less time to write and submit to respectable literary journals. If they feature your work, it proves that you write well.

Another option is guest blogging for popular platforms. Because of my involvement with Huffington Post, I was chosen as a keynote speaker for a Women's Day event in 2017.

This February, I joined NaHaiWriMo for the first time and, despite the obstacles, penned a haiku daily. Not all of my poems were brilliant, but at least I now have 28 new haikus, and I can do whatever I want with them: revise, submit, compile a chapbook...

I've also been sending out flash fiction and short stories. One of the rejection slips suggested an anthology accepting work like mine, and another provided feedback on my writing. Nobody likes to fail, but with short-form fiction, the stakes are lower. You won't have invested so much time and effort or poured so much of your heart and soul into it that your identity gets wrapped up into acceptances or rejections. If you receive too many rejections, perhaps it's time to improve on your writing craft.

Don't sacrifice your grand literary aspirations, though, but keep the long game in mind. My earliest drawings were mere doodles, and now I'm a freelance graphic designer. I learned music by playing simple tunes like "Mary Had a Little Lamb" on the piano, and a few years ago I composed music for films. My first computer program displayed the sentence "Hello world!" on the screen. Now I'm a data scientist.

It's the same with writing. Master the fundamentals on little things, and greatness will follow.

* * *
Cassandra Lee Yieng writes to inspire. A lover of stories, Cass excavates them from real-world data by day and from her imagination by night. Her publications include an essay on female mathematician Emmy Noether and a cybersecurity horror story, and she has blogged for Huffington Post and National Novel Writing Month. She works as a data scientist. Find Cass at
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Nicole Pyles said...

This is great! And it's what I've been doing lately myself (practicing with the short story). It definitely helps strengthen my weak areas of writing.

KAlan said...

Your tale is filled with truths, and there are scores more about short-form writing. It hones the skills needed for writing lyrically, without bogging a writer down in plot contradictions, backstories and the like. And, hey: my first computer program said "Hello, World!" too (followed by one that concatenated "foo" and "bar").

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