1. Katherina
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    Katherina Member

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    Trouble with short stories... SOS!

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Katherina, Jul 5, 2010.

    Hi guys!

    I wanted some advice on what you do to write your short stories because I suffer from a very very bad thing that has no name but it´s horrible. The thing is, whenever I try writing a short story it turns out into a long one and I just can´t stop writing and I continue. And worse, the ones I´ve actually managed to complete, when read, they give the feeling like something is missing, as if they needed to be longer.

    Also, I have some trouble finishing stories. I´ve got a thousand ideas and when I come up with a good one I start writing, but then I forget. Poof! Just like that... Suddenly another idea comes and Yipee! Im writing again.

    Anything suggestions on the matter?
    Do you suffer from a similar thing?:eek:

     
  2. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Do you read many short stories? You might want to critically analyse them, as to what they do that you're not.

    As for the forgetting ideas thing, that's more simple. When you have the idea, write down a brief outline before you start. That way, when you forget you can just glance back and remind yourself.
     
  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I experience a lot of the same.

    What I've taken to doing if I want to make sure that I have a short story, and that everything wraps up within the word-length of a short story, is that I write the entire thing in one sitting. I sit down when I have some time, start typing, and don't stop until the entire story is complete. By necessity, that limits the length of it, because I can't sit and type for more than a few hours.

    With your stories, it sounds like you've either got ideas that aren't really susceptible to short story treatment (i.e. they are novellas or novel-length stories), or else you are allowing yourself to stray from the path and putting in all kinds of unnecessary wording. Remember that a short story is a fairly efficient writing form. You shouldn't have a lot in there that doesn't directly move the story forward in one way or another.
     
  4. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    I think the two problems you cited are interrelated. It seems you started writing with an idea and then as you write there is an explosions of ideas almost to the point of forgetting the idea you started with in the first place :) and you keep on writing and writing to accommodate all your ideas in that one story. That's why you feel there is something missing even after you complete the story.... because there are so many ideas and chances are that you left most of your ideas hanging.

    Here's what I feel you should do. Develop a clear storyline and then develop your plot always keeping the storyline in mind. It is okay to have many ideas while doing this and it is okay to write down all the ideas in your first draft, but you have learn to keep the ones which are absolutely needed and leave out the ones not needed.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I think I see one of your problems. Let me rephrase te above:
    Part of your problem, the excess length, is probably writing with a white cane. You can't see exactly where you're going, but you know you'll get there eventually. Meanwhile you meander, feeling your way to the end of each sentence.

    That probably has a lot to do with why it feels incomplete, too. You may need to plan your storylines and plots a bit more before you begin writing.

    Understand the difference between storyline and plot. Read What is Plot Creation and Development?. Before you start, ask yourself what the central conflict is, what the obstacles are, and what the characters' goals are.

    Short stories, more than is the case with novels, must keep a tight focus.
     
  6. theSkaBoss
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    theSkaBoss Member

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    Or it could very well be that you secretly want to write novels. *shrug*
     
  7. Nalix
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    Nalix Member

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    I do the same thing, then again, my short stories are all interconnected and share common features and settings. And they're based on my previous novels.

    I'll repeat a lot of what others have said. Know what you want to accomplish with the story. I often try to take a single scene or feeling and build a story around it. Many of my stories are written to introduce a particular event or character who I plan to use later. The most important question you can ask yourself is "what do I want this story to do?". Once you've answered that question, every other question you need ask yourself will relate back to that objective.

    On the other hand you may just want to write and see what comes out. That can be fun, therapeutic, and occasionally inspirational. If you do so, don't be afraid to throw away a lot of words. I think it was Jerry Pournelle who said something along the lines of ~be prepared to throw away the first million words you write~. Not an exact quote, but that's the idea. And even thrown away ideas may be useful later on. You never know.

    And finally, maybe what you're trying to express really is a novel length idea and not a short story at all. I know most of my short stories could be expanded into novels, but they are mostly good enough where they stand. Once you find a level of satisfaction with your story you can try to expand on that, or leave it be and start a new one. It all depends on what you want the story to do.
     
  8. Thoughtful Earth Dweller
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    Thoughtful Earth Dweller New Member

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    I find that with short stories, it's all about the pacing of the story. Be efficient, and be sure that every scene exists to further the plot ;). Try focusing on one idea that you have for a short story, think of the main character and his or her conflict, and maybe make an outline of the story's events before you begin writing. When writing, focus on the conflict and how the character deals with it. Most importantly, have fun with it! Also, you might want to consider writing a novella (instead of a short story) if you have a bunch of ideas for a single story of yours. Best of luck to you.
     
  9. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Katharina, maybe you were simply meant to write novels. ;)
     
  10. Space_Goose
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    Space_Goose Member

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    Not to try to hijack another post here but, how short should a short story be anyway? At what point does a short story stop being a SHORT story?
     
  11. OvershadowedGuy
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    OvershadowedGuy Member

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    there are general guidelines, but everything I have heard is a "short story" is under 3000-5000 words.

    and threadstarter, perhaps the stories you are starting to write are too much of a story for a short story. My 3k short story turned out to be a 20k novella because the story was simply too big.
     
  12. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    One thing people who are new to writing short stories forget is; the short story gives them a lot of room to play with, more than what most people think. It's generally accepted that a fictional text stops being a 'short story' when it excides 22,000 words; so don't be afraid to spend a lot of time, and making your short story as long as possible to accommodate the idea; but there is also a fine line between having too much and too little with short stories too - remember that.
     
  13. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I will echo Cogito's words on this matter. Como tambien soy latino, I understand the cultural imperative to be somewhat longwinded.

    When you have finished with your stories, you need to look back with an eye to repetition and to economy of phrase. Short stories, by their very nature, demand an economy of expression and judicious use of words to get the maximum impact in the minimum word count.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Flash fiction is a great exercise for learning to write concisely. It will also serve you well when you need to write a synopsis for a query letter.
     
  15. Katherina
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    Katherina Member

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    Thanks for the advice and sure I´ll try them out. By the way, I was really impressed with Cogito´s words. You hit the nail!

    Now that you say that, I do feel like im walking with a white cane and whenever my ideas come, I mostly imagine part of the start of the story, the main ideas and then the climax scenes and sometimes the ending but I tend to change it in the course of the story. Weird huh?

    And now that Ive read some more comments, I see that some other people also suffer from the same problem and im glad this thread could also help.:D

     
  16. Mila
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    Mila Member

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    I've got the opposite problem. I usually write to a 10-15k word count with no problem, I'm concise with words and I stick to the plot. ( Unless I'm at work, where the plot is often lost...).
    It doesn't mean you need to compromise on descriptive writing either, or characterisation. I find it quite easy. If you really want to write short stories, then Neil Gaiman is a good example of a concise writer, as is MR James.
     
  17. Peregrin
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    Peregrin Member

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    Wow. I wish I had that problem. All my novel ideas end up being an unrelated series of shorts. Use it as a tool and crank out a novel!
     
  18. Jane Beryl
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    Jane Beryl Member

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    Banzai is right. If you want your story to be short you need to plan ahead. I'm not saying constrain your imagination, just realize that at the end of your story you want this ending. At a certain point you should have this middle and this beginning. I find it easier when, for short stories, I write it all down. Then go through and rip to shreds the unimportant details. Finally, rewriting it again until I get my perfection. I suck my thumb though when it comes to stories, I'm a teeth mashing baby.
     
  19. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I have a hard time myself with writing short stories. They always get too long because I like to include enough background material to make the story rich. Maybe there are some writers whose natural form is the long story, like the novella. I'd put Joseph Conrad in that category.

    But if you really want to write something short, study models of the kind of story you want to write. Hemingway's short stories are masterpieces of economy. It's not a matter of eliminating needless words from the sentences, rather, it's a matter of omitting all information that isn't absolutely necessary. Take, for example, Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants". We don't even get to know the names of the characters. We don't know who they are, where they come from, how they came to be drinking at a bar in Spain, waiting for a train. We only see the setting they're in at the moment of their conversation, and we hear that conversation as if we're sitting at a nearby table, listening, filling in for ourselves everything that's unsaid. It's a very pure story, nothing extraneous. It's stark, stripped right to the bone, and the more powerful because of it.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, a good place to find examples of short stories is in TV commercials. Some of them are marvels of economy as well. In and out in thirty seconds. There's one running these days for Oreo cookies, showing a young boy and his father eating their Oreos, dipping them in milk, etc. until at the camera shifts and we see that they're doing this over a computer connection. The dad says "Good night, buddy," and the boy says "Good morning, Dad" and we realize that they're half a world apart. It's a well-crafted little story with zero extraneous detail, but it gets its punch in at the end, all in thirty seconds.

    So check into commercials for lessons in economy. You can learn good writing lessons in the oddest places, can't you?
     

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