Who Writes Short Shorts?

Prompt for this month:

Every word in a short story counts. If it’s not moving the plot forward, it’s not worth it. Many magazines and short story markets have very rigorous word count limits. So how do you go from writing novels of 50,000 words or more to a short story that has to be under 5,000? What techniques for brevity have you found helpful? How do you tighten your prose to make it still shine, but also carry the point quickly and succinctly? How do these techniques also help your novel writing?

Although I haven’t tried to submit anything I’ve written to magazines or short story markets, I have read that they are strict with regards to things such as word count.  It makes sense, when you think about it.  After all, they can only make their magazine so thick before the cost of printing outweighs the price they’re charging.

In answer to the title question: I do!  I’m probably rather different from most of the writers on WriYe.  Rather than writing epic, sprawling novels that take at least 50,000 words (and typically require at least half as much more before the story is actually finished), I write a lot of stories that fall comfortably in the realm of the short story.  In fact, when I sit down to write a novella or novel… that’s when I struggle.

Of course, coming at this problem from my background, I think it’s easy to slim down a bulky novel.  You trim out the fat.  If a scene doesn’t advance the plot or reveal something about the characters, cut it out.  Set it aside for another story.  Do you really need to wax poetic about the gown that your heroine wore and how she wore her hair and all those little details?  Does the reader really need to know the entire history of your world to this point?

I’ve been told – although I couldn’t tell you how I do it or what technique I use – that I’m very good at giving back-story and revealing world building details without info dumping.  I think a lot of that comes from my experience in writing short stories.

So, what would I recommend to someone who is struggling to make every word count?  Practice!  Write drabbles.  With just 100 words to work with, it’s a real challenge to have an entire story in that space.  It’s doable and, in doing it, you’ll be pushing yourself to look at what’s important to the story, versus what you’d simply like the reader to know.

Once you can write a story in 100 words, move up to 300 words or 500 words or 1000 words.  Challenge yourself to add more details to the world and characters without going over that limit and while still writing a complete story.  Really, though, the key is practice and lots of it.

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Deadlines

The Looming Doom – Deadlines
We’ve all head deadlines to face – whether it be yearly like WriYe, monthly like NaNo, or weekly like LWS. How do you face your deadlines? Any advice to help meet them? Any advice on what to do when you miss them?

I’ve always found that I write best when I’m working towards a deadline.  That’s part of the reason why I’m working my way through my WIPs this year using self-imposed deadlines.  By giving myself a date to have a piece completed, I find that I work harder at actually completing it.

Whether it’s in writing or in crafts, I find that the best way to work towards a deadline is to break things up into manageable pieces.  Rather than saying, “I need to finish this shawl in six weeks”, I’ll say, “I need to get through seven repeats of the pattern each week, one repeat each day.”  With writing, that sometimes means looking at how long I want the story to be and deciding how many words I should write on it each day.  Other times, it means looking at my outline and deciding how many sections I need to finish each day.  Whatever I do, breaking the project up into small pieces keeps me from feeling overwhelmed.

So… what happens when I miss a deadline?  Well, the worst case scenario, is that the piece gets put on the back burner and, sometimes, never finished.  Sometimes, that’s all right.  I’ve had times when I’ve set something aside and come back to it a few weeks/months/years later and been able to complete it.  Some things just need time to rest before you can work on them.  Other times, I carry the object over and give myself a new deadline.  I didn’t finish this story last month, so now… I’ll definitely finish it this month.

The best advice I can give when dealing with deadlines is this: don’t let them destroy you.  The worst thing I’ve heard of on the NaNo and similar forums is when people know they aren’t going to finish their story by the end of the month so they just quit altogether.  So what if you aren’t going to get to 50K in 30 days?  If you stop writing, you’ll never finish the story at all.  To me, that’s far worse.

Review of Crewel World

Crewel World (A Needlecraft Mystery, #1)Crewel World by Monica Ferris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first book in a series that’s being shared around in my church choir. I like cozy mysteries and I was pretty well stalled on my other reading and falling behind on my goal of a book a month for the year. So… I picked it up and started reading it.

It was an excellent read and went quickly. I did not read that blurb on the back, so I was just a bit surprised (but only a bit) when Margot was killed.

The characters were likeable and engaging, also believable. I really felt for Betsy when she was struggling through her sister’s untimely murder. The things she was feeling and how she reacted… it all made sense.

I enjoyed the characters as a whole. They were just the sort of people you might find in a small town. I think I like Jill the best of all. She was just such fun, partly because she reminded me of other characters I liked in other works.

I was able to solve the mystery right along with the main character – not ahead of or behind. That’s always a plus with me. If I continue with the series, I might start getting ahead of Betsy. However, it was nice to see that the clues were all there for the reader to put together.

View all my reviews

Take a Chance

Ezra frowned slightly at Morgan. She was seated across the room, waiting for him. She’d been assigned as his handler, but both of them wanted to see if they could have more. He bit his lip and his brows furrowed.

Was he making a mistake? Morgan was an agent, after all. If he made one wrong move – said the wrong thing, she might tell Chris that he wasn’t exactly keeping out of trouble. He was still forging paintings, but he couldn’t stop – not with Severin breathing down his neck.

He dropped his gaze and rubbed his arm. He wasn’t the only one who might be hurt by their relationship. His father had died when he was only seven and he’d inherited the same condition. All he needed to do was have his aura destabilize. He could very well die before their relationship had really begun.

He nearly left, but then, he remembered that there was more he wanted in life than his work. He wanted a chance to love and be loved. For however long it might last, he would take that chance. Smiling, he stepped over to the table. “Hey, Morgan,” he said.

“Hey, love,” she said. She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, as he sat down.

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