Monday, March 26, 2012

Rust and short stories

or "from the Amber that doesn't write too much"

I may share a name with our dear cabin girl, but I don't share her problem. Mine is that I have written very little in the past five months... or more like a year. Ever since last spring break, when I started to home educate my family.

Since that time, I get up every morning, stretch, and feel a slight creak. It's the rust. It creeps and spreads, chewing, gnawing, eating away at my writing implements. Ruining them! So when I finally get a free hour to write, I sit down and start oiling my tools with a little writing exercise, or I look over a tangle of partials, or write a (blog post), and before the tin man has said nary a word, something interrupts and the moment is gone.

And every day, it's a little bit worse.

Do you go through periods like this? Does the feeling resonate with you?

Well, I have found a satisfying way to keep my arsenal shiny and oiled: SHORT STORIES.


Yep. Now, I know short stories are not the enticing vixens that novels are. I have shied away from them in the past... it can be hard, particularly, to write a short story with a sci-fi/fantasy bend because you don't have much time for world creation. But short stories are great for exploring characters and situations. They give you a chance to create a satisfying arc, a cycle with a beginning and an end, something with emotional kick. All in just an hour or two!

Some of my shorts have been totally new ideas, a chance to test drive (before laying out 50k and finding out it stinks). Some have been shorts of longer partials I have laying around. Or self-contained scenes that don't fit in the main storyline. A short is a fantastic way of spotlighting a minor character that you love (or can't find a way to love) without letting them take over your novel manuscript.

So if you haven't written a short lately -- or ever -- here's your nudge. Write a complete short, say three thousand words, and see if it makes you feel just a bit more limber than before.

And then, if I didn't fear being called a hypocrite, I'd tell you to submit it! Or, at least, think about making it into a novel or screenplay.

Write on!


  1. That's my favorite short story ever, Amber!

    Thanks for this great advice. I've put a lot of time into my writing this past year, but it was mostly revising rather than drafting. I have a new goal - draft something every day. And it doesn't have to be part of a novel I'm working on. In high school I had a folder stuffed with random scenes, experiments in writing. I should do more of that.

  2. Brava, Amber! Recently, a good friend of mine wrote a short story. She'd only written full length novels before and said this was a great experience. I might have to give it a try. Keep up the good work!

  3. I've recently started exploring short stories. Here's the thing, they give you the euphoria of completion in a short time frame. I think every novelist should write at least a few a year to remind them of what THE END feels like. That sensation needs to be experienced way more often than every sixth draft of a 90k novel. Finishing a short story makes me want to do it all over again with my novel, gives me that taste of success that helps me push on. Great post.

  4. I wrote quite a few short stories during college and I loved doing it! Maybe I'll try it again :) Thanks for the nudge!


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