Short Stories or How the Hell do I Write That?

Blog Post No. 503

14183My first love of books came from reading Philip K. Dick short stories in high school. I loved the creative ideas and the tight prose. I had an idea that I wanted to tell stories before discovering those collections, but after reading them, I started to see the possibility of becoming a writer.

My first foray into writing was to finish some short stories over on Adventure Worlds Press. They were terrible, but full of ideas that had been brewing in the back of my mind for years. Taking the best of what I was writing at the time, Christian and I put together my first book (his second) No Light Tomorrow. It’s just a little short story collection and I’m a much better writer now, but I’m still proud of that book.

For some reason, since working on the Novella Series, I’ve struggled with writing short stories. I think there are a number of reasons why and I’m sure I haven’t nailed them all down yet, but I have isolated a few obvious issues. Since short stories are short, there isn’t a lot of time to build up momentum. I tend to have an easier time when I first start writing a piece since there is a lot of excitement and the story hasn’t been tethered to what I’ve already written.

giphyThe farther along I get, the harder it is to keep climbing. That’s the major struggle I have with longer stories. You’d think that in shorts, since there isn’t a lot of time to hang around, there would be less of a struggle. Unfortunately, I find that the problem just shows up sooner. The real challenge comes with the ending, though.

Again, with a longer story, there is another buildup of momentum when getting to the end. While writing a satisfying ending is hard, when I’ve been working on a first draft for months, the light at the end of the tunnel has a very strong pull. Fatigue reminds you over and over that things can be fixed in the second or third draft.

clonehighwashilarious_a6fef7_5939412No story I’ve written has turned out exactly as it was in my head. For some reason, with a novel, that doesn’t bother me as much. Maybe it’s because I meander a lot when I write and there is more of a chance to fit in ideas or I’m more accepting that things are going to develop as I write. Short stories don’t have that luxury. By the time you reach the middle, it’s time to wrap it up. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s hard to keep going. It’s also hard to keep the word count down being so much more used to languishing in novels and novellas.

I’ve been talking about getting back into short stories as long as I’ve been working on the Invasion Novel (and that’s a long time). I’ve written most of the Synthetic Albatross Novella Series in that time. Now that Christian is reading the Invasion Novel, I’ve finally gotten back into a short story that I had started years ago for a collection (but never finished).

giphy-1I managed to wrap that short story up last week and I plan on continuing knocking out a few that I had started in the last few years. There was one that I had finished in the early days of the pandemic, but I haven’t looked at it since and I have a feeling it’s going to be in need of even more editing that the one I just finished (which is a lot).

So far the trick has been reminding myself that I have to be productive while the Invasion Novel is being reviewed since the novel is pretty long and it’s going to take a while. Also, for this recently finished short, I let myself write too much knowing I’m going to have to cut back in the second draft. Over writing was a bit of an issue with the Invasion Novel since too much was tens-of-thousands of words. A couple thousand words in a short are a little less intimidating, but since the tolerances are much tighter, cutting comes with its own challenges.

But I got one short story finished and I’ve gotten back into another one (that I had started at the day job when first going back last year and many of my shifts were just waiting to scan people at the door). I hope it doesn’t take Christian too long to review the Invasion Novel since I am eager to get back to it, but while I wait (and try to remain patient) I’m going to keep working on these short stories. In a perfect world, I’ll be able to write novels and short stories at will and finish both in a single year. At least, that’s what I’m working towards now.

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