You know the feeling you get when you learn how to do something you’ve tried to master since you were a kid? I have these files in my room – manila folders full of yellowed notebook paper, stories I’d written as a teenager. Short stories that I started, but never successfully finished. Oh, I finished one or two – but barely, and nothing I would read out loud to others.
It took me decades to finally learn how to properly craft a short story, and I have to say I am in love with writing them – for multiple reasons. First of all, I am that writer who has a zillion ideas always popping up. What depressed me was always thinking I needed to turn the story into a full length novel. Do you know how frustrating that is? Knowing full well how long that process is, taking a little over three years to write and publish my first novel – Oldsters. I started hating even having all these ideas (I apologize to those of you who struggle with that part of the process!).
I’d been writing a few short stories this past year, and been pleased at the results. I used my own photography for many of the prompts at first. Then it hit me the other day, when I was looking at a story I’d started with the intention of writing into a novel. I’ve already started on my second novel and outlining a series on top of that. There was no way I needed another huge project looming over me. I re-read the story and realized it already had a decent ending where I’d stopped. It was a three scene story, and my answer was right in front of me: stop where I was, clean it up and it was a pretty damn good short story. I opened my file of other “books” I had waiting in the wings, and realized I could do the same for several of them.
Secondly, I’ve quickly learned there is no better practice for writing than working on short fiction. To get a beginning, middle and end into a story of 700, 1500 or 3000 words is tough! But man, is it rewarding. I’m hooked.
I’ve also started trying to read a lot of short stories in different anthologies. I’ve always been a fan of those “Great American Short Story” compilations, but it’s great to read modern works by current writers. I’m hoping to work all year on putting together a nice compilation of my own and self-publish it. Another avenue would be to submit to the literary magazines, although I’m always a bit intimidated by what I see out there. I did take the plunge and send a couple out, but surely won’t take it personally if I’m declined – I’m absolutely in the stage of perfecting this new craft, and it’s such a great feeling to not have to push away those ideas that come fast and furious.
I’d love to hear from any of you who have had some experience in the form – and if you agree that writing short is the best practice for writing long…Have a great weekend!