My regular readers know I typically write novel-length stories. However, during one crazy four-day stretch, I wrote a long-ish short story/short-ish novella (novelette?). For those of you following along at home, I’m referring to my story inspired by spam.
I’ve blogged before about how the experience was a great way to stretch myself, but even beyond that, attempting shorter length fiction can help us understand the basics for novel writing.
A novel is big. Really big. So big it’s hard sometimes to see the full picture of the story and know how best to shuffle the pieces.
But a short story is…well, short. By necessity, short stories don’t use complicated subplots. They don’t contain several reversals. They are story structure at its most streamlined. And by working in the short story format, we can learn to recognize and strengthen the structure of all our stories.
Why All Writers Should Try a Short Story
The lack of subplots and complications in a short story makes it easier to see the story’s bones. In a short work, we can more easily see:
- the three acts (setup, confrontation, and resolution)
- the first turning point (where the story world gets turned upside down and the reader is introduced to the big story question)
- the second turning point (climax/confrontation with the antagonist)
- the story question (with no subplots, there’s only one main question driving the story, and this can be as straightforward as “will the protagonist survive?”)
- the steps of the hero’s journey
When we have issues with a shorter work, we can find the problem more easily because it’s not buried under the complexities of a novel. And as we get better about recognizing structure, we’ll be able to solve problems with novel length work. We’ll know if the bones of a story are good.
Once our stories have good structure, we can add length, fix sagging middles, and speed up pacing by adding:
- Reversals: setbacks for the protagonist.
- Pinch points (as defined by Larry Brooks): reminders of the nature and implications of the antagonistic force (how bad is the bad guy?).
- Turning points: revelations that change the context of the story.
Understanding how to develop short stories also helps us develop story ideas. We’ll be able to take a story seed and know what we have to do to grow that into a bigger story. Novels are simply short stories with more subplots added and more of those aspects listed above.
The Best Reason to Challenge Yourself with a Short Story
(Okay, I’ll admit I’m biased here.)
Announcing the Pitch Your Shorts (hee) online pitch session! *releases confetti* Yay!
Several editors from Entangled Publishing will be visiting my blog in the second week of January to take pitches for shorter length works. They’re interested in stories with strong romantic elements that end in a “happily ever after” or a “happily for now.” They’re looking for stories in the 10-60K word range and are open to many genres:
- Romantic Thrillers
- Science Fiction, Dystopian, Steampunk
- Paranormal and Urban Fantasy
If you have stories already completed that would fit those guidelines, get them polished. If you have ideas along those lines or if you’ve thought about attempting a short story, get writing. (Another great thing about short stories is they’re quick to write and revise.)
The editors have promised they’ll make at least one request from those who pitch on my blog, and for the pitch that excites them the most, they’ll offer detailed feedback.
Do you notice that phrase: “they’ll make at least one request”? That means this isn’t a contest, where only one pitch can win. This is more like a writing conference, where editors can request every pitch that interests them. Yes, really.
This is a fantastic opportunity, and I want you all to consider pitching something. I’m asking for you to help spread the word about this so everyone has time to get something ready. I love helping my friends and readers out, and this could be a way to start a publishing career, experiment with a new genre/point-of-view/verb tense, or try out a new format.
Even if you consider yourself a novel writer, try writing a short story for this pitch session. Get a head start on a New Year’s Resolution to work toward a publishing credit with a buzz-worthy publisher. Plus, this is a chance to improve our skills. In one shot, we can practice our structure, learn how to write a short story, pitch to several editors, and have a chance at a request and/or feedback. How cool is that?
Mark your calendar: Pitch Your Shorts will begin January 10th
Have you written a short story before? Have you ever developed a short story into a longer one? Is it easier for you to see story structure in shorter works? Will you be preparing a short story for Pitch Your Shorts? (Please say yes!)Pin It