Ink-Stained Scribe

Learning to Write Short - Post # 1

Not sure if want (write short).
Since today's post involves a discussion of length, let's just get this out of the way: that's what she said.


When it comes to writing, I think we all have a natural length we're comfortable with, a sort of natural pace, scope, and idea-size. The ideas that appeal to us, and the extent to which we develop them are both indications of what format and length our writing will take. In other words, some writers are natural short-storyists (SS) and some are natural novelists (NN).

The hostesses of Pendragon Variety, for example, would break down thusly:



Have you ever been in a group and written from a prompt, only to be shocked at how vastly different each person's idea was? It's funny how these things start, how people's minds work in such different ways. Skrybbi and I, for example, came up with a story idea while watching a documentary. The next day, we were shocked to find out what the other had come up with.

She fashioned the perfect scene to capture just the edge of the concept and leave the audience wondering, I started brainstorming the who, the why, the how, and the what-does-it-mean-for-society. I'm less interested in the inherent "whoa-factor" of the concept than I am in how it affects people, whereas Skrybbi likes to set things out with no explanation, and let the reader imagine their own effects. She doesn't want more than that. The untapped potential of that drives me nuts.

I want to write a story based on this picture.
I have trouble coming up with ideas small enough to really be considered a short story. I managed it a few times by accident, but more often than not my ideas spiral out of control in terms of scope and scale and I end up with a conflict that can't be resolved in under 20,000 words, or a world I can't do justice to. I would say this is because I prefer longer works, and so that is what I'm compelled to create, which leads to a lack of experience with short-story-sized conflict.

I've had this problem of writing short stories for a while now. I used to write short stories, before I started working on a book in earnest [read: ten-ish years ago]. Now, I find it difficult to plan short stories. Sometimes they happen without planning, but I'd like to be able to know for sure that I can come up with an idea, plot it, and execute it. I don't want to just leave it up to chance.

So I signed up for Cat Rambo's Fantasy and Science Fiction Short Story workshop, which Cat generously bartered for, since I'm not in a position to afford the price right now. I'm really hoping this will help me shore up the areas where I'm deficient (plotting small) and recognize the areas I have strength in, and give me a good boost up the ladder. I'm already having a great time writing the practice vignettes for class.

I've submitted "Steam Kids" for workshopping this Saturday. We'll see if it's got as many problems as I think. Hopefully, with other people to point out where it's broken, I can fix it and have something strong that can stand on its own.