Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Short and sweet

I'm growing to appreciate the process of writing short fiction.

While I look for representation for one novel and start planning another, I've been writing short stories.  It exercises the writing muscle, and it provides an opportunity to experiment with new characters, plots, and styles. Because I read more novels than short fiction, I've generally thought of my writing in those terms. I used to think that it would be frustrating to develop a world and characters only to abandon them after a few thousand words. It felt like dipping your toe into a hot spring and then toweling off to go home.

Not so.

Writing short stories has been liberating. It's allowed me to focus on just a couple of ideas, or a relatively simple storyline, without having to build up as much as I would for a novel. There's still structure, but it's easier to avoid getting lost in it.

Perhaps most importantly, the payoff of completing a short story is fast, and the consequences of trying a new idea and failing are low. It may take months (or longer...) to complete the first draft of a novel, but many writers can crank out a short story draft in a couple of days. It feels good to have a finished product in your hands and on submission, and it doesn't feel as bad to have to abandon a story when you've only invested a couple of days in it.

"A Crumpled Paper Ball" by Flickr user Turinboy. CC-BY license.

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