So Many Good Openings…
I’m good at starting short stories. Really good, I’d say. I have snappy first paragraphs, cool set-ups, neat ideas and then…
Then they tend to stall.
I never seem to know where these damned stories are going. So what if there’s a T-rex loose in the mall? Who gives a crap, anyway, and isn’t that just going to wind up being the same as the plot of the latest Jurrasic Park movie? After that occurs to me, I get disenchanted and then stop because, well, I don’t want to be derivative. I want to be original.
Maybe I’m expecting too much out of myself in the first draft. I want the story to be brilliant. I want it to sell to the best markets and get all the praise from (whoever) and win all the awards and make me the guy who is known for writing brilliant, well-selling, praiseworthy, award winning stories. And, of course, that’s a huuge amount of pressure.
But that can’t be it, because I try to do the same thing with novels and I have no problem diving into writing a novel. I just sit my ass in my chair and start churning out words, day by day, bit by bit, until a draft is done. Even revision in novels seems easier – there are so many moving parts, so many modular pieces, that altering it seems almost intuitive. Well, at least compared to short stories.
The source of all this whining is that I just finished a novel draft and now it’s an opportunity to write some more short fiction and get it out the door before the semester begins and all my writing time pretty much vanishes. I mean, how long can it take to write a 4000-6000 word story, right? I cover that in about two days while writing novels – no sweat!
I sit down, crack the knuckles (not really – just a metaphor) and start typing and I get about 500-1000 words in and…
I feel like I should be able to write a draft of 2 short stories per week. The reality is that a single one takes me weeks, sometimes months, sometimes goddamned years to see through.
Right now I have seven or eight stories with openings and no middle or end. I’m stalled on all of them. I’d call it writer’s block, but I don’t really believe in writer’s block. It’s not that I don’t have ideas, it’s that I just don’t think any of my ideas are any good. I find them boring. I don’t want to write boring stories.
I guess that’s what people mean when they say “writer’s block.” I should just put my head down and power through. That’s what I do in novels. Why is it any different for short work?
Well, it’s short – there’s no time to waste, no room to spare. I can’t dick around for twenty pages and then go back and cut it out. Well, no wait – I can dick around for twenty pages and then cut it out, but I don’t want to. I want short fiction to be a faster process than the longer stuff. I want to churn out stories every week. But writing short fiction is work every bit as much as writing long fiction is – more, if you ask me. People ask how long it took to build Notre Dame Cathedral, but do they ever ask how long it took to perfect the wheel? Sure, it’s smaller. But smaller doesn’t mean easier.
So, I’m going to go back and read the start of a bunch of stories now, see if any new ideas have developed. See if I can get these things through to the end.
Don’t hold your breath.
The release date of Book 4 of The Saga of the Redeemed, The Far Far Better Thing, has been pushed back to November 20th. Though a copy of the text has been on my editor’s desk since March, he’s swamped with work, it seems, and I’m pushed back in the queue. We thank you for your patience.
Posted on July 27, 2018, in Critiques, Theories, and Random Thoughts and tagged short stories, writer's block, writing, writing process. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.
Hey, you. I know what you mean about writing a cracking opening and then trailing off because you can’t find a reason to care about what comes next. Are you getting too preoccupied with the hook? The cool first line? That’s what happens to me; if I don’t develop the characters first, it just becomes a chance to show off concepts, and then there’s nothing meaningful to pull me along. Hope something clicks for you soon!
Yeah, there really *is* a click, right? It’s almost audible–some little idea fits perfectly in your orphaned story and the rest pours out in a rush. I love that feeling–it’s why I write short fiction at all! But getting to that moment…whoah.
The characters are part of it, but I’ve had as many stories stall because all I have is characters and *not* anything for them to do. (shrug)
FWIW, I’ve had my best luck with short stories by figuring out how it ends, first, and then figuring out how much story I need to tell to set the reader up for that ending. It’s an “inorganic” way to write a story, but for me, it works.
That’s kinda the problem–I don’t *know* how I want them to end. I just know how I want them to start. I should try building one upside down sometime, though. Maybe that will work easier.
I liked the crystal dipped in dreams very much. Thanks.
Yay! Thanks! So nice to hear!