1. Neo
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    Neo Member

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    Finding a comfortable range

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Neo, Mar 16, 2010.

    I've got an affliction which probably affects a lot of writers - I have some vivid or interesting ideas, but either I do not know quite what to do with them or when I start thinking about acting upon them, the idea becomes too complicated and takes up a lot of time. And then, inevitably, I end up with too-short, half-finished projects as well as the overtaking in my mind of old ideas by new ones.

    I don't have the time to devote to a novel, it's as simple as that. My life just does not allow me that kind of freedom both in terms of actual writing and in terms of thinking too hard about the story, characters, plot, etc.

    Recently I have been thinking of devoting more of what writing time I have to short stories, but I have a few issues;

    I don't want them to read like super-short attempts at novels, the sort you get in high school English. While I know all the technical issues and considerations for novels, short stories seem just different enough to warrant a new perspective. Has anyone got any tips on how to plan and write short stories? Or comments on my situation?
     
  2. whiskeyjameson
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    whiskeyjameson Senior Member

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    If you have time to write short stories you have time to write a novel. Many authors had full time jobs while they wrote their novels. A couple hundred words a day (if that is all you could manage) would add up over a period of time.

    You're wrong to think that focusing on short stories will require any less care and hard thinking than a novel. A short story has to do everything a novel does but in a very compressed form. Every word counts.

    As far as planning goes, I don't do it, I sit and write. I know that I have to tell my story in few words, so I cut what isn't needed. I hit a description and move on. Beginning, middle, end. Conflict and resolution. A short story needs all the elements.

    I don't really know what you mean by "I don't want them to read like super-short attempts at novels, the sort you get in high school English."


    Good luck
     
  3. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    My suggestion to people trying on the "short story outfit" for the first time is to keep it simple. Don't try to add too much conflict and too many characters/plot points into a 4000-6000 page story.

    I usually tell people to lock two characters in a room/house, etc and let it rip.

    Conflicts are like fats. There are fats that are good for you (like olive oil) and fats that you should eat in moderation (like the naughtier kind).

    Less good conflict is external / crisis-oriented. (i.e. bus crash)
    Good conflict is more internal. (you're on the bus. You just learned from the doctor that you are pregnant. Your boyfriend is a meth addict. You have to get home to face him.)

    Bad examples, but you get the drift. :)
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    You should start by reading short stories. Besides short story collections, there are magazines that have short stories online so take a look at those.

    A short story isn't a mini-novel at all. A short story has less characters and usually focuses on one conflict. The best thing to do is to just read some short stories in the genre you are planning to write. Also keep in mind that writing a story takes time. Although it won't take as long as a novel, it might still take weeks to finish.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    to learn how to write short stories, you only need to read them... lots of them... by the best short story writers of all time... go to the library and take out collections by:

    poe
    de maupassant
    twain
    o'henry
    bierce
    jackson
    welty
    faulkner
    hemingway
    cheever
    o'connor
    carver
    fitzgerald
    cather
    oates
    atwood
     
  6. Felorin
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    Felorin New Member

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    Novel-writing

    If you have a decent enough story, with decent enough characters, then you can write a novel. If you write a short story, and like those characters within it and believe in them, then you have the foundations of a novel right there. Continuity is a problem though - the pacing of a novel is an entirely different beast. You need a sense of perspective to make it all hang together. Above all, you need patience and you must, must believe in what you're doing - sounds trite, but it's true.
     
  7. EileenG
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    EileenG Member

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    And don't forget that many a novel started life as a short story. The first chapter of my book started life as a short story exercise for writing class, and even though it's been rewritten out of all recognition, it still stands as a short story.
     
  8. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    I second what eileen is saying. Many short stories are so good that you leave the reader wanting more, so it can easily evolve into a book.

    That said, it can also take a great story like White Angel and turn it into something far less stellar. Boo!
     

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