Ever sit down with the intent to write a short story only to have it turn into a novella? Or even a full-blown novel? In my recent preparation for the OWFI 2012 conferencecontest, I re-discovered how difficult it is to keep the ‘short’ in short story. This year, I wrote a piece for the young adult short story category which had a limit of 1,200 words. Eeek!
My characters wanted me to write a story slightly outside my genre, they demanded a novel length story (which they deserve at a later time), and they had no desire to live confined within the contest guidelines. I knew going into it, they were going to be unruly. Usually when I write, I’m not concerned about word count.
In order to keep it short, I had to change my mindset. Here’s what worked for me:
Let the story title work for you. Choose something creative and short that fits the genre of the short story. For tips on attention grabbing titles, check out this article.
Strong, fleshed out characters help hook a readers’ interest. Character development is important, because even though your characters are part of a short story, they deserve full attention.
Don’t let backstory side track you, no matter how tempting or interesting. There’s no room for it in short fiction.
Stay focused on one plot, one event. The more linear time you try to cover in a story, the more complicated the story becomes which may increase word count. This one might not apply to short stories with a word count above 1,200.
Limit the number of characters, for the same reason listed above. More characters equal a more complicated story equals more words.
Make sure every word belongs. This applies to all fiction. Vanquish weak words.
Every item (backpack, gun, frying pan, etc.) you mention should add value to the story somehow or reveal something about your character. For example, if your character uses a frying pan as a weapon in addition to a cooking utensil, it demonstrates that the character is practical and resourceful. Also, if the character doesn’t aim, shoot, and/or threaten someone with the gun by the end of the story, the reader may not need to know about the weapon.
Do you write short stories? What technique works for you?
It’s that time again. For those who have done this before, it’s a wonderful opportunity to connect with other bloggers. For those who’ve participated in the Writer’s Platform Building Campaign in previous years, welcome back. Last year, I signed up with multiple groups on the list of Campaigners. Looking back, I think it was too much. I didn’t get around to everyone’s blog as much as I’d hoped. This year, I think I’ll stick with the Paranormal Romance and YA lists.
This is an awesome event and I look to meeting new bloggers and continuing to connect with those I’ve already met.
If you’re interested, click the link above or picture for more details.
Question: What’s your first memory of wanting to be a writer? When and how did you get the courage to come “out of the writer’s closet”?
On a Top Chef’s Masters Season One episode, they asked the contestants, “When did you know you wanted to be a chef?” Hubert Keller, Rick Bayless, and Michael Chiarello all had distinct childhood memories of cooking. Which led me to wonder, what was my first memory of wanting to be a writer?
I remember the wonderment I had while reading Island of the Blue Dolphin by Scott O’Dell. I can’t tell you the number of times I plagiarized some aspect of that story in my homemade books as a child. I remember thinking how much I wanted to create stories that would carry people to far away lands.
But of course in elementary school, if anyone asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I told them I wanted to be a teacher. In high school, a translator. In college, a linguist because writing wasn’t a real job. In my heart, I always said I WANT TO BE A WRITER!
I am a writer. I write paranormal young adult fiction. I transport people to other places and times. I inject their lives with the impossible. I give them suspension of disbelief.
I am a writer and it’s nothing to be ashamed of or hide.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Did you tell right away? Or hide it?
I love paranormal, both adult and young adult. Even when I try to write a story outside this genre, it always finds its way back. There’s just something about the supernatural that draws me to it. Perhaps, the possibility of the impossible. Vampires, werewolves, witches, sorcerers, faerie… I can’t get enough. Even when they fall off the “Hot” list, I still love ’em. I think that’s where my passion for writing paranormal comes from.
What genre lights your fire? Or are you more of a literary person? Or perhaps, a poet?
My recent participation in the WriteOnCon, a free Online Children’s Writer’s Conference, made me re-evaluate the title of the piece I submitted for critique — Journey to Eden. I have actively pursued representation for this work and it even place third in the Lone Star Writing Competition.
Part of the requirements for submitting a piece for critique at WriteOnCon was critiquing at least five other pieces. I found myself selecting pieces based on genre first, then title. If the title didn’t intrigue me, I didn’t click the link. Journey to Eden is a nice enough title, but is it enough to catch someone’s interest? Probably not. So, I revised it.
Dawn, one of my Novel Clique critique partners, she said, “I like Edge of Truth better because this society is balanced on a precipe. Any misstep and all crumbles into a valley of falsehood. You’ve got a great metaphor with Edge of Truth.”
Although editors/publishers will often make changes, there’s a certain joy that comes with finding just the right name for a manuscript, setting, character, paranormal entity.
Has anyone else experienced changes to names/titles in a completed work? How about a work-in-progress (WIP)?