The Challenge of Writing Short

by Julie, enjoying fall in Somerville

Coming up with this graphic, which is admittedly goofy, was easier than figuring out how to write the short story that has been stymying me for a few weeks. Let me explain.

On occassion, there are calls for short story submissions for anthologies. For the past few years I’ve tried to write a story to submit to different anthologies. Inevitably, what happens is that I start a new novel. Perhaps not a good novel, but a novel. I can’t boil the idea down to 2000-5000 words without it blowing up to much longer.

Of course, a short story idea can’t be as complicated as a novel. But the storytelling still needs to be complex and satisfying. There is art in understanding the difference, and doing it well. Several of the Wickeds have written wonderful short stories. I’ve published two in the past. But as with everything in writing, the better I get at the craft the more I want to challenge myself. And so I’m working on a couple of short stories.

Keeping the novelist at bay is difficult. I love backstory, subplots, and lots of characters. Rather than trying to wrestle that, I’m working on keeping it lean. And not giving up.

Do you find some challenges impossible, and yet you persist? That’s how I feel about this–by November 1 I’m going to write a short piece of crime fiction that is good, solid, and polished. As of this moment, I have notes, and an idea. Wish me well, friends. Starting a new novel would be less difficult.

Yet I persist.

34 Thoughts

  1. JULIE: Yes, I get it that writing a short story is different than writing a novella or full-length novel. I admire writers that can do both well. GOOD LUCK with your November 1 deadline!

  2. You can do it! True, keeping it lean is key. Only the characters who actually matter to the story. If other people wander through, don’t name them.

    I love writing a short story as a palate cleanser from my novels. I try out different forms, make the bad guy the narrator, use – oh, horrors – swear words, and go darker and to other places than my cozies can.

    Good luck, and let me know if you need a read before you send it in! (I know the deadline you’re speaking of, and I decided not to write one for that.)

    1. Edith- nice encouragement, actually your post talked me into trying to write a short, too. I’ve haven’t written a first person piece yet and your darker voice suggestion had instant appeal. Where can I find a few of your shorts to read? I’ve been an Edith fan, not only of your novels but I always learn something from your SiC posts.

  3. You got this! Never giving up is my motto of sorts. Honestly, I think it makes you appreciate things more when it doesn’t come easy. When you succeed, you feel happy like the world is say “Great job my friend”. If everything came easy, then it would soon become ho hum. Life is about setting goals and then striving to accomplish them Yes, we might stumble or have great difficulty, but it’s the getting right back up and striving to move forward that makes me get up each morning. So with all this rambling, I say keep moving forward. And if you come up with a few novel ideas along the way, all the better. 🙂
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  4. You can do this. Yes, short stories are leaner and Edith has some great tips. I got my first short story acceptance this year since 2015 and it felt good.

  5. Julie, you have the skill, you just need the confidence. You can it! You are a great writer.

  6. Best wishes writing your short story! For me, short stories come out more in the editing. My first draft of a short story can be a bit long. Then I start chopping away at it to condense it. Each draft gets shorter, then I’m good with it. Also, I look to several writers for inspiration on short stories. Kelly Link, Karen Russell, George Saunders, and Harlan Ellison come to mind. Their stories are entertaining and suggest larger worlds beyond the sentences.

  7. Go get ’em, Julie! Your writing skills are awesome, and your plots are intriguing, so you know you’ve got this! Sometimes you just have to relax and focus, and pretty soon, you have accomplished your goal. You will surely let us know by November 01 that your short story has been created and finished! All the best! Luis at ole dot travel

  8. Good luck, Julie! I haven’t written a short story in forever. The novellas have been scratching that itch for me. But I still remember the tricks to get down to word count. If you have a character named Anne Marie, change it to Annemarie. LOL.

  9. Writing something short is a challenge for me even if I do find a way I rarely can write something short. You see I like to write for fun and have been since my days in college after meeting and hearing Maya Angelou speak which was for a class ironically and ever since then I’ve found myself writing. I may be unpublished now but have got a trusted Author friend and mentor giving tips

  10. I’m writing a short story that is due on Nov. 1 as well. I have 1933 words written. I know where it’s going, I know the twist, now I just have to finish writing it, and then up the suspense. The first attempt at a short story I’d written in years ended up in the Edgar Allen Cozy book written with some of the Wickeds. I always find them a challenge as well and my first novel (unpublished) started as a short story too.

  11. I always step away from a stumbling block for a bit and that seems to help me get back to it easier. aprilbluetx at yahoo dot com

  12. Good lucky, Julie!

    I know exactly what you mean. I began as a short story writer. Learning to write a novel was my challenge. A few years ago, Guppies issued an anthology call that sparked my creativity. Learning to exercise that muscle again was painful. I almost gave up. Truly, there is an art to writing short, and it’s very different to writing novels.

  13. I wish you a lot of luck. I’ve written short stories for anthologies—”Low Down Dirty Vote VII and VIII”, for example. But I find myself enable to squeeze what I want to say in 4,000 or even 6,000 words.

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