Tag Archives: short stories

Almost 1/10th of the way: A Crafter’s Observation

Well, Story #5 is done save for the final polish. I took this one down to the wire but I was able to finish it in time. Maybe Friday or Saturday I’ll sneak in and edit it a little but the point remains that I was still able to hit my goal of writing a story a week. And next week’s is virtually finished; in fact, one of the problems I had was pulling myself away from the hot new idea I had and finishing the one I’d started.

I also learned that I don’t want to put up one of my old stories in place of writing one a week, if at all possible. I might write two this week so I have something in reserve, but that’s different. Around about Monday evening, when I’d not yet started on this story because of OH MY GOD IT ITCHES IT ITCHES and other concerns I had, I started going through my files, thinking that I had good cause to do such a thing. But for some reason, it just didn’t seem right. Probably an adverse mental reaction to the medicinal cream I’m using.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that, more than before, I feel like a craftsman as I write these stories. Since I first set out to write (and finish) novels some time ago, my method was always:  Write a set amount every day; Let it rest; Edit and rewrite. Yet there were problems with this method, problems I’ve seen for a while but am just now paying attention to. For starters, I always sucked at editing. Oh sure, I could find tonnes of problems with the manuscript. I just had trouble sitting down and fixing them. I’ve since come up with a few ways of addressing that, and I think my current novella is all the better because of those changes.

But the other thing I realized is that charging ahead, blindly committed to word count and finishing the book led to sloppy work. Whenever one of my Muse’s editor friends would stop by my head and start flipping through the pages I’d written, I’d slap him or her away, and scream my commitment to write ten pages/ two thousand words/ whatever my commitment was. No. Matter. What. And yes, sometimes I’d be stuck but I’d keep writing and keep writing, hoping to get out of the rut. Sometimes this would work. Sometimes it led to sloppy piles of camel dung.

Writing a story a week makes me use my craft in an entirely different fashion. I have two to four days, tops, to write a rough draft. That’s more than enough time from a typing perspective… my raw writing novel days taught me to be able to write four to ten thousand words in that amount of time. Ten thousand words is about the top end for a short story, so physically, I knew I could do it when I began this project. But now, all of a sudden, I have other considerations. I have to consider plot, and character, and intertwining the two, making one push the other and carry both to a resolution. I have to make every line of dialogue mean something. I have to have a damn good idea of where the story was going, something I didn’t always have when I was writing a novel. More and more, I’ve begun to feel like I’m taking an item and turning it over and over in my hands, adding something here, removing something there, and slowly letting it become a work of art beneath my fingers. By the time I finished “A Shaggy Dog,” I realized that I feel like I’m making things, not just spitting a long story out of my noggin until it looks like it’s finished.

I also realized that it’s a pretty cool feeling.

Alright, back to my final polish job and then perhaps more time alone with the cat and my book.

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Writing for Anthologies

Here is an article from Bare Knuckle Writer about how to write for anthologies. Check it out. I know from my (limited) experience editing that more often than not, amateur writers will only read the guidelines so they can explain in their cover letter why they don’t apply to the piece that they’ve written.

Staying Inside the Lines

Who Likes Short Shorts?

For better or for worse, I’ve decided to start up the 50 Story Project again. If you feel this is a bad idea, blame Charlotte Cuevas… not only did she encourage me to start up again, she is considering doing something similar when she’s finished with her project to write 365 poems in a year. I can’t quite let a fellow writer and friend do two things that I’ve always wanted to do, before I do them, so that became the final push I needed. It also helps that I’m in a awkward spot with my two long form writing projects… a novella series and a new longer novel… and according to WebMD, the best prescription for what they amazingly didn’t diagnose as a tumor is: More writing.

In preparation for this, I’ve been reading a lot of short-short stories. After the novella, I feel this may be my favourite form of fiction. An early, formative book for me was the Scholastic anthology Best Short Shorts, which taught me that even though I loved the complex worlds to be found in Terry Brooks’s and Tolkien’s books, it was entirely possible to create an entire world in a page or three. Add in later experiences with O. Henry and Isaac Asimov, and the well- crafted, near poetic short-short story was something that constantly bubbled up from the drain in the little room that my Muse writes in. 

Over the next few days, until I publish my first of 52 stories for this project, I will link to my favourite short- shorts that I can find online. If you have any favourites, send me a link. 

Up on deck today: the inimitable Donald Barthelme with his story “The School.” I can’t recommend enough his anthology Sixty Stories. He was definitely a master of this difficult yet entertaining form.