My experiences: Writing for STORM

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!

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Control freaks and planning fantasy settings… o.O

I am currently writing a short story that will be published in an anthology later this year. It is set on the same world as my Yrthull stories, but it is in a different part of the world.

Now, you could say that this means I pretty much have free rein over all the aspects of the cultural, magical and general fantasy type planning for this story. But the control freak in me keeps saying: What if I say things work one way now and I discover later that it would make more sense or be far more epic if things worked differently?

What if I say these people have certain physical traits, but later I discover that far more diversity is required? What if I put things in the story now that will be a massive obstacle later? What if the way magic works now contradicts everything that I have to write into a different story for the plot to work out?

Well…this leads me to two paths. One, I exhaustively plan out every detail there is to it all – meaning that I probably won’t get any writing done this year, because I’ll be planning for the next five years. Two, I throw all caution to the winds and simply change whatever turns out to be a stupid decision later…attracting any pedantic stickler whose source of joy is picking on inconsistencies in stories.

See…the only reason that last part even features in my considerations is the simple fact that I have become one of those people. I don’t even like that I do it, because it has ruined a lot of stories for me that I had previously enjoyed. But, after having been surrounded by hordes of geeks that pull every book, movie and game apart, I just can’t ignore stuff like this anymore.

It’s making me itch just to think it, but I think I’ll just have to give myself permission to change things later. Here’s hoping that I attract a forgiving crowd of fans.