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!