Since last year October, I have been working on and off on short stories for STORM (Pretoria Writers Group’s anthology coming out in June 2014). It’s been a strange ride. When I just started out, I thought to myself: This will probably be fun. I don’t have any trouble writing flash fiction, how different can it be?
Funny thing is: A short story is not just 500 words.
As you can see from the short stories I’ve put up on this blog, I have tried my hand at stories of 250 words or shorter. Ye olde flash fiction. If you want something that actually hits harder than a kitten’s paw, you’ll have to cut out anything that isn’t absolutely essential to the story. It really breeds a certain mindset.
Short stories, on the other hand, are actually closer to 5000 to 12000 words or so. You really have to think differently to write something of that length. Unlike flash fiction, you have time to reveal a little more about your characters; you actually have time time to describe some scenery…but you still can’t just put in everything. It has to move at sufficient speed to present a whole story in roughly a tenth of a normal novel. (When I say normal…I mean normal young adult fantasy…i.e. 300 to 500 pages or more.)
To me, writing a short story feels like writing a story with only three or four chapters. As a matter of fact, that’s how I structure them in yWriter5. I create three or four chapters (usually, unimaginatively called “Beginning”, “Middle” and “End”), I make sure the initial exposition goes into the chapter 1 scenes, the story develops in chapter 2 and things wind down (or up, as is the case in Beyond) in the last chapter. (In retrospect, that’s kind of a no brainer, yes?)
But I digress. What I meant to say is: Writing short stories takes skill and developing that skill on the fly is no mean feat. I’ve burnt my fingers more than once. I’ve had more success than I expected. All in all, I’ve learned a lot and I’m grateful for it.
Come June this year, you’ll have the opportunity to see me in action. STORM is coming! And nothing will be the same again!