Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Writing Short Stories

Sometimes I find myself questioning why I bother writing short stories when I see myself as more of an aspiring novel writer. The answer to that question is a simple one: I'm afraid.

I'm not scared of the time required to write a novel. I'm not scared of the words or even of my sustainable commitment level. Mostly I'm afraid that I just don't have the experience to pull it all together at the quality level I've come to expect from my writing. To gain that experience I've set upon the task of writing short stories that are more than just tales of going from one place to another and dealing with difficulties along the way. I have tried to write stories that say something without preaching, that show the subtle lessons of life that are there for the taking.

I've always been a fan of, and infatuated with, the idea of symbolism. Even as a child, upon first learning the word, I thought it was interesting that you might say one thing but reveal much more somehow. Of course, my first attempts at symbolism were quite unsophisticated. I am actually quite pleased with my ability to write stories that mean something more than what they are at face value. In that, I would suppose I've gotten better at symbolism over the years. But there are many other lessons to learn.

I used to have a very large fear of dialogue. How much was too little? When did you have too much? How much of the story could be told through conversations and how much must remain in the realm of narration? How many different ways did "he said" have to be used to provide the necessary variety? I'm proud to say that these questions no longer stop me from writing where I once was mortified. By writing shorter stories I can experiment and hone in on what works and what doesn't.

I've also learned a great deal about pacing and story conclusion through writing short stories. I know there is still much more to learn, and I also realize that this is all just a precursor to the even greater lessons associated with novel writing, but I am happy with my progress so far. For now I have decided to enter a few writing contests and I will likely start pressing for publication in literary markets in the coming months. I can only hope that with these efforts will come additional credentials to add to my resume and that these credentials may help me sell my first novel.

I suppose the only unfortunate side effect of how much I think about writing is how much I analyze the writing of the books I read. This habit of critical reading, however, has increased my ability to find a lot of the problems I may otherwise miss within my own writing. How is that bad on any level? Well, for one it can be difficult to appreciate a story for what it is rather than for the writing itself, but I suppose if it makes me a better writer I'll just have to take it. And as long as there are people who enjoy my short stories, I'll continue to try to share them.

Creative Writing Prompt:

Post a Comment