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  1. bradbradallen

    bradbradallen Member

    Jan 26, 2009
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    Need short story advice

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by bradbradallen, Feb 10, 2012.

    Hello everyone,

    I'm here looking for some advice when it comes to short stories. I have the bad habit of writing random, spliced intros to stories or scenes from stories but never finish them from start to finish. I've got dozens of snippets of stories, but nothing concrete to show for my work.

    I suppose what I'm asking of you is how I can tackle a shorter story and stick to it to completion?

    I think part of my problem is that I get so inspired by a specific scene or proposed launchpad for a story that, once I get down to write it, all my inspiration is lost past the scene(s) that I already invisioned. Do you all think I should worry more about concepts than specific scenes when it comes to the brainstorming process?

    I'm not quite sure where I'm going wrong here, but I've only ever completed one work (and a first draft, mind you) from start to finish which ended up being around 30 pages. I'm no stickler on length and I'd rather have a better story with less length that is actually complete, start to finish.

    Any advice is greatly appreciated!
  2. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Jul 11, 2010
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    Near Los Angeles
    Maybe you should read James Joyce's Dubliners. It's a collection of stories that don't always end at an "ending", if you will. You don't have to wind up where you think you will; you can end the story where it ends in the character's mind. It might be that the reason you aren't finishing your stories is that they're already complete in the mind of the character. You've gone as far as the story takes you, so there's nothing left to write.

    It could be that the story is done before you really think it's done.
  3. RoseTHuman

    RoseTHuman Member

    Jan 29, 2012
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    The Old South
    I have the same problem. When I attempted NaNoWriMo for the first time this year, I would be really motivated at the start of a new chapter, but would find myself running out of steam pretty quickly. One thing that helped me was that, in order to meet my deadline, I would have to write 1,667 words a day. I would simply sit at my computer, play soft, unobtrusive music, and write continuously, even if I wasn't absolutely happy with the path the scene was taking. It's much easier to go back and edit, than to hammer out that initial draft.
    Hope that helped. Good luck.
  4. JPGriffin

    JPGriffin Senior Member

    Jun 8, 2011
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    I'm in quite the same bind, personally, but I remember reading somewhere that the greatest of writers never published or printed entire books worth of chapters, simply because the ideas came and went. The idea on adapting to this, though, is a bit different of an approach than you'd expect.

    Some writers are methodical. They start with an idea, a plan, move from chapter 1 and end on chapter 20. The type of writer you seem to be is the one that starts with the idea, writes chapter 5, 17, and 11, and then can't find a way to connect them. I'm not saying that your method is wrong; by all means, it's as natural to you as the language you speak. The way you have to approach it, though, is to not look at where the scene starts or ends, but where the book starts/ends. If the scene finds its way in, then feel free to toss it in there for good measure. The idea, though, is not to write around that one scene, but write in a way that the scene makes sense with the plot.

    Your work ethic can account for a lack of drive to finish a story, or it could be a multitude of reasons. Maybe you were distracted between the idea and the writing, or maybe you simply need to practice lengthening your writing. What I've started to practice, personally, is doing a 10-minute writing session as often as possible, on any subject at all, just to help the flow of thoughts make it onto the page, and trying to lengthen the amount I can write in that much time. It doesn't have to be good, but so long as you can effectively communicate what thoughts were going through your head, then the practice is helping. For you, if you're determined on working on a longer piece, I'd suggest working your way up. Write a short story (only a page or two, each page about 800 words or so), then try extending that one page. Build one story off of another, write a spin-off of a different story if you want to, just keep the methodical practicing up. It'll seem ridiculous and pointless, but I swear, it works. The confidence in writing will let you get those thoughts from head to paper in no time, and when that idea comes you'll be able to get it down in such a way that it's exactly as you imagined it.

    Trust me, you're not the only one who's had trouble with this. It's just a matter of getting comfortable with the language you're using, and syncing your mind with what you write. Even posting in this forum is a mental practice for me, helping my mind communicate what it needs to in writing. There's nothing you should be too worried about, I'm sure you'll do great with a little practice. Hoped this helped!
  5. Mark_Archibald

    Mark_Archibald Active Member

    Jan 12, 2012
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    What you have is a lot of stacked ammo. There's nothing wrong with that, you should save them and finish them later.

    As you mentioned, part of the problem is that you start a story that sounds great and write with no direction for an ending. My advice is take one of the scrap shorts and finish it in one sitting. No matter how bad the story turns out just write something that can be read from beginning to end. Don't try to make the most elaborate and greatest ending of all time, just make it a firm and abrupt than write THE END and sign off on it.

    And write another short story from beginning to end the next day and sign off on that one too.
  6. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Nov 21, 2006
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    Coquille, Oregon
    if you want to learn how to write short stories, you'll need to read lots of the best... take out the collections of the greatest short story authors from the library and immerse yourself in them, to absorb how they look/read/feel...

    then be sure you have some semblance of a plot in mind [i.e., a beginning and an ending], before you sit down to write one, and not just a snippet of a scene... think first, then write...

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