The_Long_And_The_Short_Of_The_Short_Story

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					The Long And The Short Of The Short Story

Word Count:
1383

Summary:
Congratulations! You’ve spotted a great short story competition and
decided to enter. You’ve had a go at a few short stories in the past and
you’ve been wanting to tackle a novel for ages, but the idea was way too
daunting so you’ve just shoved that to the bottom of your life’s “To Do”
list. A short story is a much better idea, isn’t it? It’s just like
writing a novel only shorter. Right?

Not exactly!

It’s been said that it’s not that a short story is long, it’s that it...


Keywords:
creative writing courses,novel writing,creative writing classes,creative
writing school


Article Body:
Congratulations! You’ve spotted a great short story competition and
decided to enter. You’ve had a go at a few short stories in the past and
you’ve been wanting to tackle a novel for ages, but the idea was way too
daunting so you’ve just shoved that to the bottom of your life’s “To Do”
list. A short story is a much better idea, isn’t it? It’s just like
writing a novel only shorter. Right?

Not exactly!

It’s been said that it’s not that a short story is long, it’s that it
takes a long time to make it short. The idea that a short story is just a
mini novel is an idea that will mean certain death to the success of your
short story, before you’ve even written the first sentence.

There is an art, and a process to writing a short story, just like
there’s an art and a process to writing a novel, a non-fiction book or an
essay. Success is a matter of knowing the basic principles, and then
applying these to write the best short story you’re capable of.

The question is, do you have the stamina to make your story short?

That question is easily answered by walking step by step through the
writing process.

1. Planning

No matter what you are writing, you need to have a plan. Would you
attempt to build a house without plans? Or would you set sail on the high
seas without a map and compass? Writing stories is exactly the same. Set
out without a plan and you will undoubtedly become lost in a forest of
your own words.

Some simple questions to ask yourself at this early stage include:

* Who is your main character and what is their predicament?
* What do they want? How can they get out of their predicament?
* Who or what is stopping them getting what they want?
* How can you apply pressure to your character to force them into making
tough choices in pursuit of their goal?
* What will your character learn over the course of the story?

Beginning by answering these few questions will help you know who your
character is, what they want, and how they are going to go about getting
it.

2. Writing

Once you have a plan for your story you are ready to write it. When you
are writing, you are just writing. You are not editing and you are not
planning, You are writing. This specifically means that you don’t stop to
wonder if “this way sounds better than that way”. When you are writing
you are capturing the essence of the action in your story. You are
writing a draft, not a finished product. At this stage don’t even think
about your word limit. Just write the entire story as you have planned
it. We’ll take care of the word limit in the editing and rewriting
stages.

The writing stage is similar to mining a diamond. When a diamond is mined
it is a chunk of rock, with a few glittering pieces to show it is
actually a diamond. You don’t mine a beautifully cut and polished diamond
from the side of a mountain, do you? No, you have an amazing piece of raw
material, which you then take to a jeweler who will cut and polish it to
show its beauty to its greatest advantage. In the writing process, the
jeweler is the editor.

3. Rewriting

Once you have completed the first draft, the very best thing you can do
is walk away. It can be difficult to get any distance from your own work,
but it is virtually impossible if you try to plan, write, rewrite and
edit your story in one sitting. If possible don’t look at it again for at
least another day. This allows your story time to rest and “breathe”, and
when you return to it you will see it in a fresh light.

When you are ready, re-read it straight through once without stopping,
and without making any changes or marks in the margins. Once you’ve
finished the first read, ask yourself one question: did I write the story
that I set out to write? If the answer is no, don’t panic. It’s amazing
how the real story you are meant to write comes out in the writing. At
this stage your main focus is to ensure that the intention of the story
equals the result. In other words, the story has to make sense, and must
flow from beginning to end, with all questions raised at the beginning
being answered by the end. It is quite common to do comprehensive
rewrites of the first few scenes, as the story you really wanted to write
didn’t surface until after you’d really got cracking. That’s ok. Just go
back and rewrite any scenes you need to, to make the story flow from
beginning to end.

Some other important questions to ask at this stage are:

* Are there any great leaps in time or place? It is generally best to
keep these leaps to a minimum in a short story.

* How many characters do you have? It’s never a great idea to have more
than three major characters at the most, and I’ve read great short
stories where there is only one. Save the huge cast for your novel.

* Does the story continually move forward? It’s very easy to have two or
maybe even three scenes showing the same thing about your character. A
scene is a unit of change – if a scene doesn’t move the story forward, it
needs to be cut or rewritten.

So rewriting is re-seeing and re-sculpting. The main purpose of this
stage of the process is to make sure the story makes sense. There is a
logic to story, and if there are any great leaps in time or place, you
may need to add some small linking phrases. Once you are happy that the
story flows in sequence you are ready to move to the final phase:
editing.

4. Editing

You now need to step entirely out of your creative right brain and into
your logical and analytical left brain, to refine and polish your story.

Firstly, look at your word count. Are you way over, way under, or pretty
close to the mark? Never submit a story that is over the word limit.
Respect the requirements of the competition and keep within the word
limit.

Now read your story again, this time with your red marker in hand and a
critical eye on the page. Some questions you need to ask at this stage
are:

* When does the action begin? This is where your story begins. It’s
tempting to “set the scene” and “show character” but the reality is, you
don’t need to. The story always begins where the action begins. If there
is anything that needs to be explained you haven’t written your action
properly.

* Is all the action on the “spine” of the story? Edit out any superfluous
material. Again, save it for your novel.

* Show don’t tell. This means, don’t tell us about someone, show us their
character by putting them into difficult situations and let us discern
their character by the choices they make.
* Edit out all explanation. As a general rule, ask yourself, “is it an
image?” If it’s not it’s probably explanation and needs to be cut.

* Is there a “solution” to the story? Does the story deliver what it
promised?

* Now is the time to ask, “is this the best way to say this?” If not,
write it again, and say it better.

You may find yourself rewriting, editing, rewriting, editing over and
over. This is completely normal! Most good short story authors do at
least 15 drafts of their short stories before they are happy with the
result.

So, you’ve made it through the process and you’re ready to send your
story off to the competition. Make sure you double space it, that the
font size is big enough to read easily and that you’ve put enough postage
on the envelope!

And good luck!

				
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