Thursday, October 22, 2009


by Dave White

I have completely forgotten how hard short stories are to write.

Usually, when I sit down to write something, I have a character, or a line, and I just kind of go from there. I can meander through the piece and figure out where I'm going with it. I can play around and see what works. Eventually, a few months and a few thousand words later, I have a completed draft. I, then go into revision mode and find out why, if, and how the story works.

Not with a short story.

For some reason, I always think short stories should be written quickly. A blur of white hot writing and bam, you have a new story that ready to be sent out for publication. But it never works that way.

In fact, short stories might be harder that writing a draft of a novel. You can't meander through a short story. You can't figure out what it's about. You have to know.

And right now, I don't know.

I have a great opening line. I have a character... and then I've got nothing.

Every morning a new idea pops into my head, telling me what the story's about. And by the afternoon I've rejected it.

But it's been so long since I've completed a short story. Not since "Righteous Son" in the Killer Year Anthology. And thinking back... that was almost 3 years ago I wrote that story.

So it's been a while.

Time to get back into the routine.

Time to take a break from the marathon and go back to the sprint. Just to see if I can still do it.

But man, can I feel my muscles burning as I do.

Pain is a good thing, right?

(This will be my last post published as a man in my 20s... Whoa.)


Graham Powell said...

Last post in your 20s? Age is just a number, Dave. Now the memory loss, THAT'S a clear sign of age.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Short stories are about cutting things out-a painful process at best. It's scary to find out how much you can cut and improve it.

Jerry House said...

Happy birthday! Or, happy sex change! (Your post was a bit vague on which it was.)

Jen said...

That's exactly how I feel like a short story should be written... and exactly why I write so few! My friends who pay more attention to them have a lot better time of it.

Good luck :) And happy birthday.

John McFetridge said...

Yeah, happy birthday.

Dave White said...

Birthday is next Thursday. So my next post will be my first as a 30 yr old. Thanks for the wishes.

Steve Weddle said...

You keep writing them, we'll keep reading them.

Dana King said...

I have a similar feeling about short stories, which is why i have turned more to flash in the last year or so when I'm looking for something shorter to write. These sometimes grow into short stories, but that's a more organic process and seems to work better for me.

Scott D. Parker said...

THANK YOU for expressing the same sentiment I've struggled with all year. I've forgotten the routine to write. After writing/submitting/getting published my first western this year, I've stopped being a writer and become solely a blogger. I've written only one other thing, the first chapter to a steampunk story, and that's it. I'm having to relearn what it's like to write. And I've given myself a method--read: gimmick--to kick-start my next novel. More on that later...

Mike Dennis said...

I have the same problem, Dave. On a number of occasions, I've written a few lines, I had a character or two ready to go, and some kind of situation to put them in--all with a short story in mind. Next thing you know, I'm 10,000 words in, with no end in sight, so they became novels.

I do have some short stories, but only about a dozen. With those, I pretty much had the whole thing in my mind from the get-go. It's when I start off with slender threads of ideas that I find myself in novel territory. But when I have the whole story more or less scoped out, it really is a relatively quick process.

I was just at Bouchercon, and on the plane ride to Indianapolis, I started what looked to me like a novel. But the more I worked on it, I told myself, "Must..make...this...a...short...story..." I had to force myself, but I just compressed the action and the plot into a single turn of events, and presto! There it was. I think it's one of my best. I submitted it as soon as I got home.

Maybe if you tried that...that is, starting off thinking you're doing a novel, but make yourself narrow the whole thing down before you get too deep into it.