The_Long_And_The_Short_Of_The_Short_Story

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					Title:
The Long And The Short Of The Short
Story

Word Count:
1383

Summary:
Congratulations! You’ve spotted a g
reat short story competition and de
cided to enter. You’ve had a go at
a few short stories in the past and
 you’ve been wanting to tackle a no
vel 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 muc
h 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 writ
ing,creative writing classes,creati
ve writing school


Article Body:
Congratulations! You’ve spotted a g
reat short story competition and de
cided to enter. You’ve had a go at
a few short stories in the past and
 you’ve been wanting to tackle a no
vel 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 muc
h 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 jus
t 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 w
riting a short story, just like the
re’s an art and a process to writin
g a novel, a non-fiction book or an
 essay. Success is a matter of know
ing the basic principles, and then
applying these to write the best sh
ort story you’re capable of.

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

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

1. Planning

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

Some simple questions to ask yourse
lf at this early stage include:

* Who is your main character and wh
at is their predicament?
* What do they want? How can they g
et out of their predicament?
* Who or what is stopping them gett
ing what they want?
* How can you apply pressure to you
r character to force them into maki
ng tough choices in pursuit of thei
r goal?
* What will your character learn ov
er the course of the story?

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

2. Writing

Once you have a plan for your story
 you are ready to write it. When yo
u are writing, you are just writing
. You are not editing and you are n
ot planning, You are writing. This
specifically means that you don’t s
top to wonder if “this way sounds b
etter than that way”. When you are
writing you are capturing the essen
ce of the action in your story. You
 are writing a draft, not a finishe
d 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 rewri
ting stages.

The writing stage is similar to min
ing a diamond. When a diamond is mi
ned it is a chunk of rock, with a f
ew glittering pieces to show it is
actually a diamond. You don’t mine
a beautifully cut and polished diam
ond from the side of a mountain, do
 you? No, you have an amazing piece
 of raw material, which you then ta
ke to a jeweler who will cut and po
lish it to show its beauty to its g
reatest advantage. In the writing p
rocess, the jeweler is the editor.

3. Rewriting

Once you have completed the first d
raft, the very best thing you can d
o is walk away. It can be difficult
 to get any distance from your own
work, but it is virtually impossibl
e if you try to plan, write, rewrit
e and edit your story in one sittin
g. If possible don’t look at it aga
in for at least another day. This a
llows 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 stra
ight through once without stopping,
 and without making any changes or
marks in the margins. Once you’ve f
inished the first read, ask yoursel
f one question: did I write the sto
ry that I set out to write? If the
answer is no, don’t panic. It’s ama
zing how the real story you are mea
nt to write comes out in the writin
g. At this stage your main focus is
 to ensure that the intention of th
e story equals the result. In other
 words, the story has to make sense
, and must flow from beginning to e
nd, with all questions raised at th
e beginning being answered by the e
nd. It is quite common to do compre
hensive rewrites of the first few s
cenes, as the story you really want
ed to write didn’t surface until af
ter you’d really got cracking. That
’s ok. Just go back and rewrite any
 scenes you need to, to make the st
ory flow from beginning to end.

Some other important questions to a
sk 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 mor
e than three major characters at th
e most, and I’ve read great short s
tories where there is only one. Sav
e the huge cast for your novel.

* Does the story continually move f
orward? 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 forw
ard, it needs to be cut or rewritten.

So rewriting is re-seeing and re-sc
ulpting. The main purpose of this s
tage of the process is to make sure
 the story makes sense. There is a
logic to story, and if there are an
y great leaps in time or place, you
 may need to add some small linking
 phrases. Once you are happy that t
he story flows in sequence you are
ready to move to the final phase: e
diting.

4. Editing

You now need to step entirely out o
f your creative right brain and int
o your logical and analytical left
brain, to refine and polish your st
ory.

Firstly, look at your word count. A
re you way over, way under, or pret
ty close to the mark? Never submit
a story that is over the word limit
. Respect the requirements of the c
ompetition and keep within the word
 limit.

Now read your story again, this tim
e with your red marker in hand and
a critical eye on the page. Some qu
estions you need to ask at this sta
ge are:

* When does the action begin? This
is where your story begins. It’s te
mpting to “set the scene” and “show
 character” but the reality is, you
 don’t need to. The story always be
gins where the action begins. If th
ere is anything that needs to be ex
plained you haven’t written your ac
tion properly.

* Is all the action on the “spine”
of the story? Edit out any superflu
ous material. Again, save it for yo
ur novel.

* Show don’t tell. This means, don’
t tell us about someone, show us th
eir character by putting them into
difficult situations and let us dis
cern their character by the choices
 they make.

* Edit out all explanation. As a ge
neral 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 stor
y? Does the story deliver what it p
romised?

* 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, ed
iting, rewriting, editing over and
over. This is completely normal! Mo
st good short story authors do at l
east 15 drafts of their short stori
es before they are happy with the r
esult.

So, you’ve made it through the proc
ess and you’re ready to send your s
tory off to the competition. Make s
ure you double space it, that the f
ont size is big enough to read easi
ly and that you’ve put enough posta
ge on the envelope!

And good luck!

				
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posted:12/5/2010
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