Friday, May 11, 2012

A Method for Short Stories

So, I am writing a plethora of short stories right now for a variety of anthologies. They range from fantasy to science fiction to horror to down right weird. I have to say though, that it's been rather fun. It's also brought me to the realization that I no longer have trouble writing short stories. It's like a system.

Novels are easy, for me, to write. You have all of that room to spread out and weave in subplots and madness. I love subplots. I love sub-subplots. I like layering my plots like balaclava. It's an addiction.

You don't have the time or the room to do that in a short story really, though there are many examples I can think of where I did succeed in my usual thick plot in a relatively short time span.

But that's not the point of a short story. A short story should be about a single line of thinking. At least, I've found that is what is working for me. I try to cover a short span of time, and keep it to a main plot, with a subplot. *I have to a subplot, I can't help it*

Ashley's short story system:

1.Pick the Theme and Genre - With anthology submissions, this is conveniently handed to me on a plate. I like this because I find it easy to write from prompts. Don't have a prompt or an idea? Ask a friend, or Google, Writing prompts. You'll get loads.

2. Get your Main Character *MC* Yes, this is the second thing I do. Once I have a character, it becomes easy to drop into the action.

3. Determine setting, time and place. If you have  well developed character, these things will be easy. If you are starting with a new character, I suggest fleshing them out first and then diving into the setting. 2/3 are easy enough to swap if you're a setting first person. If you settle setting first, a character should spring forth.

4. What's your word count? If you have an anthology to write for, they give you a word count to stay inside. Or is this for a magazine? What is the audience? Word count is important in short stories because it tells you how much room you have to play. I always keep this in mind. Granted, I know what I can do in a given span of words. If you aren't that familiar, or aren't settled into your style, this should be the last thing you take into consideration.

5. What is going to happen in this story? What is the point of the story?

6. Do you need to outline? If so, go ahead.

7. Get cracking and write.

8. The ending. The ending of a short story must do two things, wrap up and satisfy. A short story is like a little break from the world. Depending on genre, your reader will expect a different kind of ending out of it. Make sure the ending matches reader expectations so they come out satisfied. Do that, and you are much more likely to sell your story.

9. Get someone else to read it. Get three or four if you can. Take their suggestions at face value. If you have a beta reader or editor friend, get them to read it. For God's sake, don't take offense to advice kids. The worst thing you can do, is ignore the advice from a seasoned editor or reader. They know what they're talking about. If you can't take criticism, you aren't ready for the big bad world of publishing.

10. Edits. Edits. Edits.

11. Submission time. So, you're submitting. First off, go double check the guidelines. Every single company has formatting guidelines and things they want in the cover letter. Make sure you follow those guidelines. Failure to do so will get you rejected right off. Yes, some anthologies have picky, screwy and plain old annoying guidelines, but you better follow them to the letter if you want a shot.

12. Wait for news. The truth is that most people who submit to an anthology/magazine/etc will receive a rejection letter. That's okay. You have to take a step back and evaluate. Was the story too weak? Did I submit horror to a romance anthology? Did the story just not mesh well with the rest of the selected submissions? Some questions you won't get answers to. Just keep submitting. Giving up is not an option if you want to be published.

Good luck!

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