Wednesday, 31 August 2011

And You Call Yourself A Writer!


Authors, Readers, I have a confession.
I cannot, for the life of me, write short stories.

This isn't for lack of trying, mind you. This is the pure and simple lack of know-how. I look at short stories the same way I look at music composition. "I know it can be done," I think, rubbing my chin. "I just can't fathom how."

I feel like there's a black hole inside my mind. "But you're a writer!" you say (or I imagine you do). "How can you not know how to write a short story?"

I just don't. I don't know how to tell a deep, intricate story in fewer than 80,000 words. I don't know how to fall in love with characters who I'm going to drop a few thousand words later. I can write novels (in varying genres), poetry, essays, rants, speeches, powerpoint presentations, but short stories?

Nope.

I do know how to cheat, and how to sort-of produce a short story.

1. Write a long scene, pretending it's from a larger novel, with a begin, middle, and end.

2. Cry.

3. Try to simplify your reason for writing the story. Try to get across a simple theme.

4. Say you're submitting a short story, lie, and then say, "but I thought 80,000 words WAS short!"

*GAH*


What about you, my friends? Can you write short stories? Is there one type of writing that you just don't understand?

XOXO
Bethany

P.S. I really, really would like to learn how to write a short story. Any tips?

22 comments:

Christina Lee said...

I kinda feel the same way--I think it's probably a learned skill just like novel writing! I'm with ya, girl! :D:D

Donna K. Weaver said...

I used to only be able to write short stories (back before dirt) and thought I could never write a novel. Surprise! But I haven't tried to write a short story in decades. Now that I know I can write a longer work, I'm not sure I want to pull myself back. =D

L.G.Smith said...

I have a short story idea incubating in the brain right now, but short stories are tough for me too. I like the longer structure of a novel best. Short stories always seem to hinge on one quick, deliberate arc/climax. Tricky for me to get the timing right.

Chris Phillips said...

I've done flash fictions for class (easy) but if I'm going over 5k, why not just keep it going?

The Desert Rocks said...

Isn't a blog post a short story?

Lydia K said...

No tips, because I can't write them either!

Jenna Cooper said...

I have the same problem. I could do a novella, but a short story? No way! I admire people who can do so much, though.

Lynda R Young said...

short story writing is definitely different to novel writing. It might sound simple but it's exceptionally difficult. I write novels, short stories AND flash fiction. I think short stories are the hardest to write by far.

Susan R. Mills said...

Nope, can't write short stories. Well, decent short stories anyway. I've written a few because I had to, but they stink. I have used bits and pieces of them in my longer works, but the whole short story thing just doesn't work for me. I'm like you; I need more words to fall in love with my characters.

Missed Periods said...

I wrote a really, really bad one in grad school that I cringe just thinking about.

Amie McCracken said...

Try starting out with something even shorter, like flash fiction (one page) or drabbles (100 word stories). Maybe if you REALLY limit yourself you can then do a few thousand words.

Also try reading more of them so you get the idea.

Short stories are my favorite.

mshatch said...

I have written a few short stories, but I don't think I'm very good at it. I'm a long story writer.

Marsha said...

Sorry! I'm the world's worst story story writer.

Phil Hall said...

I know how you feel, Bethany... I tried a short story...ended up ~68K. (It's the one I sent you.) When I started it, I was absolutely convinced it was going to be 5 maybe 10K at the most.

Ooops. I can't discern length at the start for crap, as you can tell.

Lisa Aldin said...

I love that cartoon! Short stories are HARD. I can write (sometimes) flash fiction, under 1,000 words, but not anything much longer than that unless it's a novel. That's strange, I know. I have to go super short of long. Can't do the in-between!

Carrie Butler said...

Don't worry, Bethany. I'm the same way!

(Not the most comforting statement...)

The Golden Eagle said...

Ha! I love the cartoon. :)

I actually find writing a short story every now and then is fun--I've written several, though I haven't submitted any.

It's mostly flash fiction that I don't understand; I've done it, and it's fun, but how to people leave it not turn it into a short story or novel? :P

Laila Knight said...

You're not expected to be able to write everything. Just focus on what you're good at. I often start off with a long story idea in my head and if it doesn't reach my required length, I call it a short story. :)

Sangu said...

I can't do poetry. Every time I try it comes across as repetitive, childish, or just super-pretentious. It never feels natural to me! Short stories are hard too, because I can't shut up :-)

Janet Johnson said...

You know, I struggle with short stories , too. Like you said, I want to invest . . . get to know the character, and short stories are just too . . . short. :)

Lisa Gail Green said...

Since short stories are all I've managed to sell so far... LOL! Okay - poems too, but I digress. In a SS you can't have subplots or too many characters. You have to have a fairly straightforward plot. Practice makes perfect.

Emy Shin said...

I feel the same. I've written fanfics before, but they're essentially outtakes with known characters. All ideas I have I tend to dramatize them into a novel-length premise. :)