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Cracking the Short Story Code

Hey everyone! So I finally got logged back into my blog... it only took me forever but now I'm back and I am going to try my hardest to be more consistent. Writing related blog posts every Wednesday and a book review on Fridays. Or even some TV shows and movie reviews on Fridays too if my reading is going to slow.

I just have to give a quick update. Weapon Icean is taking longer than expected to get edited. I'm getting great feedback but... it's still with the editor so while she's busy with Weapon Icean I've been keeping busy with some other projects. My Tales of the Lonely short story collection is going great. Since I suck at grammar I'm going to print it out and have my mom (who's an expert at grammar) check over it. Get a cover and put it on Amazon. In that order but with more details. I also finished my vampire hunter book called Sterling Silver and am working on the second one. I'm really on fire and in love with this project. The world of vampires and the supernatural come almost naturally to me. I love it and I love the world and the characters and the drama and it's going great. So... there's that.

And now I have to start off by saying that for a long time I was horrible at short stories. Despised them. My brain just couldn't figure them out. I couldn't wrap my head around a story that isn't a novel. I only read short stories for school. I don't know exactly how it happened but just one day it clicked. Short stories suddenly made sense in my head.
I had been dabbling with them and flash fiction for a while with some pretty disastrous results. They weren't great. They had no theme, no direction, no development. Instead of a well rounded plotted out story they felt like a chapter in a book. Then Remiel and Demetria popped in my head and wouldn't leave me alone. Remiel yelled louder than Demetria, demanding his story be told. Only, he didn't tell me what his story was. I agonized over him for so long. Before him I already had Demetria in mind and was trying and failing at getting her story right. She refused to cooperate. So I shifted direction and sat down and wrote some of Remiel's story. It was a bit hit and miss at the beginning but then something happened. All of the pieces from Remiel's story fit together. I wrote and wrote and wrote until I had about four chapters. An "epilogue" came to me and I wrote the ending. His entire backstory came together into one twenty-something short story.

Short stories flowed out of me since then. I've written seven others since writing Remiel's short story The Lonely Child. Almost all of them were in the same world as his but in a different realm or kingdom and two of them I approved of. The second one that came to mind was Demetria's story. It took draft, after draft, after draft until her story clicked. Claudia's story The Lost Princess didn't come to me until later on. Princess Claudia Gray stole me and I wrote her short story in a few hours. They all fit and they all worked and they all were perfect to me.

But how do you write a short story? How did I crack the code? Was it just because of Remiel or maybe because I had started reading short stories for fun (mostly companions to series like Stars Above)? Or did my brain rewire itself?

Maybe it's a little of everything? Reading Stars Above definitely inspired me to want to write a short story collection. Remiel's story inspired me and pushed me to get it right. But at the end of the day I think I finally realized the code to unlock the short story of my mind. I worked and reworked a few of the sorties in Stars Above and came up with a few crucial aspects of a short story.

  • Characters: Characters are essential! They should be just as flawed and real and well rounded as any character in a novel. They should be treated with as much love and respect as the characters you place into a 60,000 word book. Before you write your short story make sure you love this character. Love this character and his/her story enough to be willing to spend a whole novel worth of time with them. Only then will the short story unfold.

  • Plotting: I'm a pantster at heart. Sitting down and outlining every detail of a novel isn't my thing. It makes me feel caged and restricted. Short stories however need to be plotted. The first draft of Remiel was not plotted and it turned out to be a mess. The rest of the drafts came together only because I sat down and listed the key elements and scenes that I wanted in his story. That the story demanded. I did that with the rest of them as well and they became real stories worth people's attention.

  • Patience: Writing a novel takes a lot of patience. You spend months, even years, on this one piece of work. With this one cast of characters, tweaking and changing and shifting words and phrases and scenes until they fit together. Short stories might take a day to write but that doesn't mean they don't take time. If you go at them as if you have one day to finish and edit and complete the whole writing process your short story will fall apart and fail. But if you go at them as if you have all day, all month or all year then you won't feel the pressure. You can relax your shoulders and just type and get it done. Plan it out. Finish the story today. Give it a break for a few days. Come back and read through it. Change things, tweak things, revise like you would with a novel. Then narrow in and fix grammar, word choice and such. Polish it off and you've got a masterpiece. All you have to do is be as patient as you are with your larger projects.

  • Let Go: This one, I think, is the most important one. The one that really counts. With a novel you have to pick a genre and follow certain rules. For each genre readers expect certain things. You're not limited but you also are in a way. Novels are amazing and fun to write. I love writing huge projects. But there's something so much more satisfying when you tie off the last pieces of a short story and step back, examine your work and smile. Something amazing happens when you push out a story and go through the writing process in the span of a week. With a short story you can free reign. Be creative. Be excited. Be yourself. Do whatever you want with this world and these characters. Stay in one genre, mix genres, add a unicorn or a vampire to science fiction. Don't stress over the details. You don't need an excessive amount of world building. You just need a balance of characterization, world building and plot. Add a pinch here, a smudge there and you've got something amazing and beautiful and you did it all on your own.
Those four are what I really learned when writing a short stories. Short stories, to me, are primarily for enjoyment. They help you get to know a world and a certain character in a more personal, up close way. It's beautiful and lovely and an amazing experience. And so, so awarding to finish a story in a day even if it has problems and is just the skeleton of a short story. I suggest that if your in a slump, if your suffering from writer's block sit down and just write whatever comes to mind no matter how crazy or weird it sounds and build on it. Don't give yourself restrictions. Just sit and type without thinking about plot or anything technical. Finishing a short story no matter how wild or crazy it my be is satisfying and a great confidence builder for a struggling writer.

Now that I'm talking about the benefits of writing a short story I think there will be a blog post about that next week because I'm actually pretty excited and passionate about the topic. The history of short stories would be pretty interesting and fun too. So if you want to learn more about short stories I suggest you stick around because I have a lot to say about the topic.

I could go on and on for hours and hours or pages and pages but I think I've rambled enough. If you want to write a short story try those options above, especially the letting go part. If your a plotter sit down and plot it out. If your a pantster or struggling writer just sit and give your brain reign over your fingers. Don't hold back and make sure to give the short story, it's characters and world and unique themes and plots as much respect as you give your novel.

Thanks for coming and listening to me ramble! I hope this post helps those of you who struggle with short stories but want to try and write one anyways can crack the code too. And if my ideas fail look up short stories or how to write a short story on Pinterest and you'll get a few different and (hopefully) helpful results.

See you all back here on Friday!

What do you think of short stories? What's your favorite kind of short story? Collections? Cycles? Anthologies? Or just short stories on their own?


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