Finding Joy in Short Stories Again

Apart from those available here, I’m working on more and more (and more) short stories right now than in a long, long while. Ergo, notes and observations!

Novels take a lot of time, for me. I’m sure there are people who can write ‘only novels’. (Can’t imagine it, but it never stopped me from accepting stuff.) The moment I decide I’ll write a certain story in novel format, I’m pledging to a few months of my life to said story. (A few months is a lot of time to whine.) Even if I write the first draft in a month, as I’ve been known to do… the editing takes, well, ages. And I’ve never been an emotional marathon runner. I’ve always been a sprinter. Training yourself to write long stuff is possible, yeah—I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t. But dammit. It just takes so long. (She whined.)

Getting excited over stuff I can finish within a week is fun. It’s not just the small wins—which we need more than ever, I feel, in 2020. It’s seeing your shit done. Most of the stories I write—and I write really short stories, alright?—get edited before I write ‘the end’. (I don’t write ‘the end’. I write down the date and maybe a short note on the story’s origin and how it came to be.) It’s so freaking refreshing.

Quantity counts for good motivation. Oh, so you say you wrote three stories in a week? (When I was a kid, I used to write three in a day, but those were, well, even shorter.) Why not five next week? Since I can only do two or three novels per year, at this time… it feels good.

Ditching half-baked ideas hurts less when it’s a story. Even halfway through. Because I spent less time on a story which ends up not working for me, it’s almost a lesser loss. My current ‘unfinished novel’ is sitting patiently at 29k, waiting to see whether I’ll redraft the most painfully bad parts, or chose to do a completely different story for the ship in question. (If only I liked them less, I would’ve ditched the novel/la years ago. No such luck.)

Not having to think about timelines and series continuity makes short stories easier. Especially when you write novels all over the place across your timeline. (Until you find a setting you really like, and then you write several stories in said setting. And then you dream up a novel set in said setting. And now—can’t catch a break, can I?—I have to back into already finished, perfectly valid stories and switch tiny details around to make them fit the bigger picture. I should’ve stopped at story #3. But the stupid setting is so stupidly perfect for my stupid little brain.)

Stories were my first writing love, after all. I first started reading novels, and later stories (had acces to awesome contemporary sci-fi and fantasy short fiction even as a kid, thanks, dad!), but I started writing stories first. It took me almost ten years from the first story until I finally had a go at writing something longer. The problem appeared when I switched to novels almost exclusively, somewhere mid-2010s. I always wished I would go back to writing stories, but the novels always took so much time (see above), and life happened, and…

Well. Life keeps happening. But so do stories, this time. Yay for many small wins in a row, yeah?

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Photo by Xan Griffin on Unsplash.