I just submitted my story for the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story contest. Five hours to spare before the deadline–plenty of time.
Everyone knows that writing a short story is different than writing a novel. But still, that fact kept ramming into me over and over again this past week. It ought to be SO EASY to write 1500 words after writing a 100,000-word novel.
Shorter? Yes. Easier? No.
With a novel, you have thousands of words in which to develop characters that the reader cares about, spin an intricate and engaging plot, and describe the setting. Sometimes the storyline doesn’t even end with that book–it might stretch throughout a series.
With a short story, you have a few hundred words to write a complete, coherent story. The goals are the same as those for a novel, except the end result is approximately the size of 1% of a novel. Tight writing is crucial; every word must be important and necessary. It’s hard to write something so short and make it relatable and interesting.
When I took a short story class in college, we read and studied some classic shorts. To be honest, I only enjoyed a few of those stories. Plus I got annoyed with trying to find all the symbolism. How could a reader know for sure if a mundane object or event really hinted at something else entirely?
I should’ve paid more attention to those stories, or at least found others that I liked. I have more respect for shorts now, and I understand why an author would want every precious word to have a double meaning. I wish I knew more about developing plots and characters specifically for shorts.
The last time I wrote a short story was… well, during that college class, so four years ago. In the meantime I wrote a novel though, so I was hoping my short-skills had improved as well. Heh. I think they probably deteriorated instead.
Last week I wrote a story (actually, I tried to recreate the story I wrote on scrap paper and lost)… but it turned out horrendous. Weird, dark, and boring, all at the same time. Syd read it and agreed that it was all of the above. So I scrapped that idea.
Then I thought about writing a story set in the world of my novel, from Cal’s POV instead of Ivy’s. I got really excited about it–until I realized it would spoil Cal’s secret for anyone who hadn’t yet read the novel. Idea #2, meet the trashcan.
I emailed Syd with all my woes and whining, and she suggested I write a story based on a novel idea she and I had brainstormed last year. At first I thought, “No way can I do that storyline justice in 1500 words.” But I started writing it anyway, just to see where it led me.
The result was surprising. Somehow I ended up loving it. I sent it to Syd, and she loved it, too. She said it made her want to write the whole novel, LOL. Since the story is about twins, I sent it to my favorite twins, Vicki and Sav. Vicki was sick (*sends get-well wishes!*), but Sav was able to do a quick beta for me. She thought I portrayed the twins realistically, so that made me happy.
I wrote the first draft on Saturday, edited on Sunday, and polished on Monday. The really hard part was deciding on a title, but I finally chose “Magnetic” (which I liked because it can apply to four different aspects of the story). So now the story is submitted, and I won’t know until February whether I placed or not. Either way, it was a great learning experience (and possible character-building exercise for future novel!).
So the question for the day: how do you feel about short stories–either reading them or writing them? Love ’em or hate ’em? If you write short stories, what are some tricks you’ve learned in the process?
Hope everyone is recovering from the holiday weekend! NaNoWriMo has ended–how did you guys do?? I can’t believe it’s December already–more Christmas/winter posts to come on LJ, if I get time. Have a great week, everybody!