1. divided_crown
    Offline

    divided_crown Member

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2010
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Aberystwyth, United Kingdom

    Setting up a routine

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by divided_crown, Jun 28, 2013.

    I have been writing on-off for several years now, starting to take things serious during NaNoWriMo 2010. Unfortunately, the routine never stuck - my NaNo novel was more of a disjointed collection of scenes and never completed. I have since started about a dozen different projects, many of which were supposed to be short stories for the purpose of practicing the craft.

    With each of these stories, though, it has been the same: at some point during their conception, I decided that maybe a short story would not be enough and I started spreading my ideas for a very rough plot that could fill a novel.

    As a result, I ended up with a dozen half-started projects, some plotted, some written spontaneously (I'm a pantser, but subject to the illusion that maybe plotting can help me get something done - so far, it failed), and no motivation whatsoever to finish either one. The reason: I have no idea where to start as all those projects are now HUGE.

    After graduating from university recently, I will soon start to work full-time. This might actually be the right time to set up a proper routine. However, I am struggling with this because the single most important piece is missing: a decent project. I don't want to start one of the big ones back up right now, simply because the disappointment of not moving forward may be too much. I also don't know how to properly design a short story so it REMAINS a short story. Many of the guides out there deal with novels, few with the intricacies of coming up with a somewhat concise, interesting story and not overloading it with ideas.

    I'd really appreciate any hints and advice to help me out of this and towards properly finishing my first story.

    Edit: I should probably also note that part of the problem is with me being very much able to devise billions of intriguing "high concept" premises but utterly faltering when trying to break those down into a decent story. Much of the standard advice seems pretty empty, and I have so far not found anything that really helped me connect a high concept premise with the detail of what to actually put in which scene and how to keep the story flowing right.
     
  2. Anthony Martin
    Offline

    Anthony Martin Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2013
    Messages:
    271
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    San Diego
    I currently work with the short story form. It's a challenging one. There is (often) less development and description of characters (and fewer characters, for that matter) than there is movement.

    The best way that I've found to improve my short story skills is to read short stories. Literary magazines, if they are good ones, are fantastic for this. So too are some of the great short story writers from recent times (Hemingway and Carver immediately come to mind).

    Finally, word counts, though none are necessarily definitive, can help. I have written a few short stories and most fall within the range of 3,000 to 10,000 words.

    If you're having trouble keeping your projects contained in the short story form, be more judicious about what you keep or what roads you decide to go down. Don't be so purple! :) To me, short story is more like a first round knockout than a seventh round TKO.
     
  3. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,728
    Likes Received:
    4,826
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    I, too, have the problem of short stories growing into novellas or novels. The short stories I've written that have stayed short have all had one thing in common: Not very much happens. When you think you have enough material for a complete story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end, you probably have too much. Just write the end - don't bother explaining everything that comes before.

    For example, look at Poe's "A Cask of Amontillado." Really, it's all denouement - we're not told what the "thousand injuries of Fortunato" are that offend the narrator so much. All we see is the narrator's chilling revenge. Poe could have easily expanded this into a novel, giving us all the events leading up to the last scene, but he doesn't - he only gives us the last scene all by itself, and it works perfectly as a short story and is a classic of the form.

    Or read some of Hemingway's short stories - I'd recommend "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" or "Hills Like White Elephants." These stories are very short and consist of almost nothing but conversation. There's no action, just character being revealed. Hemingway knew how to pare everything down to the bone, presenting us only with a crucial moment in the characters' lives and nothing else - no backstory, no buildup, no beginning or middle. All he gives us is the critical moment he wants to highlight and we get to imagine everything else. It's a very effective approach.

    If your stories keep growing into novels, try using techniques like Poe's or Hemingway's. Present us only with the most essential of the essential. The rest is dross.
     
  4. Anthony Martin
    Offline

    Anthony Martin Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2013
    Messages:
    271
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    San Diego
    ^^ This is really quite sound.
     
  5. Mithrandir
    Offline

    Mithrandir Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2012
    Messages:
    295
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    In the general vicinity of the Atlantic Ocean
    That's very helpful Minstrel. Thanks.
     
  6. archerfenris
    Offline

    archerfenris Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2013
    Messages:
    217
    Likes Received:
    67
    Location:
    Savannah, GA
    Minstrel's answer is exactly right.

    The short story is difficult. You do not have time to have your reader learn characters, back story, setting. The story is the very end of, perhaps, a long story where most details are left out. Many times, they don't even have a full ending. However, a short story has a point. The major theme behind them. In "A Tell-Tale Heart" the theme is the human conscience. Sure, we get LIMITED backround information about the main character, enough to decide he's crazy, before he murders the old man. The moment the MC reveals the dead body to the police, the story is over. The point has been made. We do not find out if he goes to jail or what happens after that point, or before (why is he crazy?) because it's not the point of the story.

    Good luck!
     
  7. circ
    Offline

    circ New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2013
    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    1
    Write every day. Don't wait around for the high concept stuff. Even if you end up throwing out most of it, just write.
     

Share This Page