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Sunday, 14 July 2013

I Don’t Follow My Own Writetips



In short stories, I mean. I’m pretty sure in my novel I have applied every relevant writetip I have ever tweeted. I may not have executed it well, but I tried. 

Yet, when it comes to short stories, I just…don’t. And I don’t know why. 

I had this epiphany when someone replied to a tweeted writetip. The tip was ‘Your story beginning does not necessarily need action. What it does need is conflict’. 

As I replied to this tweep, I realised my own latest short story is lacking in conflict in the opening scene. Damn! And why? I know this stuff, so why have I overlooked this issue? Don’t go making excuses and say no one can be on top of everything all the time, because this is almost the least of this story’s issues. 

For some reason, I forget almost everything I know about writing when it comes to short stories.
Are short stories too… short? Too small? Too… simple? I don’t mean simpler to write, because they aren’t, but the idea is simpler. You don’t have the same word count you have in a novel to tie the reader in twists and turns for six chapters. You get maybe one good twist. 

Once upon a time I could solve trigonometric equations. I forget how, now, but when I could, I’d also trip over basic multiplication. Hey, I still do that. I can formulate solutions to complex legal problems. Give me a simple problem, and I’m more likely to make a mistake. The only pool shot I’ll ever sink is the one you think I’ll never in a million years get.

My brain just seems to think complicated. Is there not enough room for my brain to really flex its muscles in a short story? Maybe it’s like singing – I’m still warming up, trying to hit the notes right, and the story is finished!

The standard advice you’ll be given is that you must write short stories. If you publish a few short stories you have a better chance with novels. Short stories are a good way to learn the craft of writing without the time it takes to write a few novels – although I’ve written eight novels and tossed seven, so maybe that’s redundant (or belated) advice in my case. A few people (like Kate Forsyth, the lucky sod) don’t write short stories, and never have.

I was told recently ‘maybe your brain just doesn’t work like that’. The speaker has post-grad qualifications in creative writing, so I was listening.

See, I’ve secretly suspected the same for some time, but mostly if you say so, you get the kind of advice I’ve mentioned above. Just because short stories are hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write them. Doing something outside your comfort zone is a good learning experience. Blah blah blah.

But now I see my writing skills actually regress when I write short stories, and I can’t explain why everything I know goes out the window.

Except, maybe, I was right the first time. Maybe I should just stick with novels.

Or at least novellas.

So I’m turning the latest short story idea into a novella, and it feels much better. There’s room to run, as it were, and I’m no longer tied up in the corral chomping at the bit. There not being much of a market for novellas, I’m intending to self-publish this one, one it’s been written, re-written, revised and edited within an inch of its life, so watch this space!


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