Very long but very informative post today. I hope you’ll get your favorite beverage and hang in there.
Wow. According to a staff member at Reedsy,
“The New York Times recently reported that short stories are ‘experiencing a resurgence’ with both readers and critics alike. In 2017, sales of short story collections shot up almost 50% over the previous year. In the past five years, three of the most prestigious prizes in fiction — the Booker, the Nobel, and the Folio — were awarded to writers best known for their short stories.
“In other words: the short story train is going full steam ahead, and it’s time for you to hop aboard! To give you a hand, we’ve published a guide to writing short fiction….”
I hope she’s right about the market for short stories picking up. But I read her “guide” and I can’t bring myself to vouch for it.
The “guide” is mired in the myths and never offers an iota of original thought. In fact, she goes on and on about how difficult it is to write even the opening. Sigh. The opening is the easiest part of the whole thing.
I included the link in “Of Interest” anyway, just in case you want to look at it. But again, IMHO it’s just flat wrong. Then I wrote a short article of my own:
Topic: How to Write a Short Story
1. Decide who or what your story is about. I mentioned a couple of days ago that some of the pics I downloaded keyed titles in my mind. Once you know who or what the story’s about, start writing.
2. I recommend you also have in mind one specific craft technique you want to practice in your writing. Maybe setting. Maybe dialogue. Maybe using all five senses in every major scene. But after you decide what you want to practice, don’t think about it. Just write.
3. Start with a character with a problem in a setting. The problem doesn’t have to be “the” problem of the story. That will come along soon enough.
4. Write the opening (300 to 500 words or so), using all five of the POV character’s senses and his/her opinions, and see where it goes. If the story takes off, keep writing. If it doesn’t, toss it and start over or move on to the next story idea.
5. Remember the short story is about One Event. If it gets bigger than that (sometimes they do) it becomes a novellette, a novella or a novel.
6. Trust your characters. After all, they’re the ones who are actually living the story. You’re just recording it. Don’t try to control them. Get dirty with them. Rip the knees out of your new pants. Stomp through mud puddles with them. Run through the story with them and write down what they say and do. Doesn’t that sound like more fun that obsessing over every word they say and every action they take?
7. When the ending comes (sometime shortly after the big climax) chances are you’ll know it. But if the writing starts flagging and getting boring, read back a few sentences. You might have written right through the ending.
8. If you enjoy reading your own work, put it away for a day or two (while you’re writing other stuff), then pull it out and read through it as a reader. Let your hands rest on the keyboard. If your characters urge you to add something, add it.
If you don’t enjoy reading your own work, trade it with another short story writer and let him/her be your first reader. Nothing critical! Strictly what stopped him cold, confused him, etc. That, typos and inconsistencies. Nothing else. And you do the same for him or her.
9. If you’re the patient sort (I’m not, sigh) submit your short stories to major markets. Places that pay a nickel per word or more. (Don’t pre-judge your own work; that’s the magazine editor’s job.)
If it’s rejected, dust it off (but change nothing) and send it back out to another market. Editors are only readers. If it’s accepted, be certain there’s a contract, and one that contains a rights-revision clause (no longer than a year out).
If you can’t bring yourself to do all of that, build a cover for it and publish it. Or add it into a collection with nine other stories and publish that. Or do both.
10. Remember that being a writer is like “being” anything else. It isn’t a “calling.” It’s something we do because we enjoy it and anything else would be work. I heard angelic voices as I read through the Reedsy article (ahhhAHHHH). That’s sheer nonsense.
Okay, end of lecture. Go have fun.
Kris Rusch speaks for me in the first paragraph after her blog post in “Of Interest”:
“[My] nonfiction writing isn’t always fun. But these blog posts give me a place to think and work out what’s going on in my professional life. They also let me vent about things that irritate me, all under the guise of advice. I do like giving advice, but usually I’m doing it for myself—as a reminder that I should be thinking a certain way or learning about something or avoiding that particular pitfall.”
As the days grow shorter and time becomes more of a premium, I’m seriously considering altering my schedule. I’m thinking of adding an evening writing session that will count toward the next day’s writing. That’s after my usual morning session, daily chores and posting this Journal.
In other words, my new writing “day” will run from 8 or 9 p.m. one day to around 4 p.m. the next. And those are the numbers I’ll report in this Journal. Naturallly, I’ll let you know how that goes.
Another note on Reedsy: Reedsy offers a block of free courses on writing, marketing and publishing. According to the founder,
“You can only take one course at a time, and it’ll be delivered to you by email one lesson a day. It’s free, won’t take you more than 5min a day, and can positively change your writing career.”
I don’t necessarily endorse these courses (I haven’t explored them yet), but they’re free and you might pick up something that 1- works for you and 2- you didn’t know before.
If you’re interested, visit https://blog.reedsy.com/learning/ to browse the courses and see what’s available.
I went to the Hovel at 8, but soon realized I felt under the weather. No big deal, but just kind of blah, like I didn’t want to do anything, like I ran out of steam. Back to the house to wait out whatever it is, but probably this will be another non fiction-writing day.
If I do write any fiction later today, I’ll report it tomorrow. I’ll post this now so I don’t forget later.
See “Get your books into Walmart with Draft2Digital” at https://draft2digital.com/blog/. If you distribute to Kobo through D2D you’re all set.
See “Business Musings: Popcorn Bunnies (A Process Blog)” at https://kriswrites.com/2018/09/05/business-musings-popcorn-bunnies-a-process-blog/. This is a GREAT post. I recommend reading it a couple of times to get more out of it.
See “A Writer’s Imagination is a Nurtured Gift” at https://killzoneblog.com/2018/09/a-writers-imagination.html.
See “A Fun Evening” at https://www.deanwesleysmith.com/a-fun-evening/.
See “How to Write a Short Story” at https://blog.reedsy.com/how-to-write-a-short-story/. (Meh. You already know how i feel about this one.)
Talk with you again soon.
Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 1070 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 1070
Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX
Total fiction words for the month……… 0
Total fiction words for the year………… 314731
Total nonfiction words for the month… 3830
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 121646
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 436127
Calendar Year 2018 Novels to Date………………………… 7
Calenday Year 2018 Novellas to Date…………………… 2
Calendar Year 2018 Short Stories to Date……… 11
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 33
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 6
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………………… 193