Thursday, September 10, 2009
The Shorts Are Lookin' Pretty Good
As a writer who worked only with short stories and poetry in college, I learned a very important thing about finishing projects - it builds confidence. I now have a large portfolio of finished, polished poems and short stories. I have a small folder of unfinished projects, but the numbers are scanty. I only have 3 novels completed, and none of them are ready for querying. The truth is, they take a long time to write.
A short story doesn't take nearly as long as a novel, and like Davin says, you can experiment with short stories and not waste an entire year or more of your life.
I think all writers should at least dabble with shorter works. Give yourself something to work on when that novel is burning you out. In fact, many writers I know are constantly juggling around a hundred ideas. Why not put those into short stories instead of huge complicated novels? See what happens!
The novel I'm working on now is a mixture of three short stories. One I wrote in high school, one in college, and the other is an unfinished short story. Now I have a full-fledged novel. I wouldn't have had those ideas if I hadn't taken the time to work on some shorter works to develop ideas and see where they go.
So What's So Great About Them?
I love the Pixar Shorts. I have the collection on DVD they released awhile ago. My three year old daughter loves to watch them. She'll sit through the whole 54 minutes without budging. But she won't do that with a normal-length movie. So what makes the difference?
They're short. They keep her attention and string her along. Oh, one more. One more. One more.
Like the Pixar short, For The Birds, that I have pictured up above, short stories keep our attention. They're fun to read, and usually fun to write. They are also pretty basic in characteristics, dealing with a small cast of characters, usually one setting, rarely much exposition (if any), one plotline, and a small window of time. There are always exceptions to these characteristics, and once a short story moves beyond a specific word count, it enters into other realms.
I'll post this here again, as I did in my The Misunderstood Novella post. The generally accepted word counts for fiction are:
up to 100
100 - 1,000
1,000 - 7,500
7,500 - 20,000
20,000 - 50,000
50,000 - 110,000
Epics & Sequels
Don't know about you, but a flash fiction piece is lookin' pretty good to me right now. I'm sitting at 52k with my current novel, and the beast is overwhelming me. Each chapter is like an intense short story, but it has to connect with 35 other chapters on about 20 different layers and a huge cast of characters.
Besides, I make a lot of writing friends online. It sure would be nice to get a taste of their writing style from a complete, polished short story than beta reading a huge complicated novel. I love novels, but my time is running short these days. Ironic, since I think it has to do with the long novel.
Gear up, everybody! Tomorrow's a big day!
~MDA (aka Glam)