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Writer's Block

October 20th, 2007 (04:13 pm)

current mood: pensive
current music: Indigo Girls

I'm trying to finish a short story I started a couple years ago but haven't looked at since. I'm fond of it so far, but I'm stuck. My problem is that I am totally clueless when it comes to writing short stories. When you write a novel, you pull together many interrelated strands of plot and character and theme, find the connections that tie them together, and create a world. That I'm comfortable with. For a short story, you have to isolate one narrow, shining thread of plot and character and theme, and leave out everything else. If you do it well, you end up with this perfect literary jewel, but it's incredibly difficult to do it well -- closer to poetry than to novel-writing, I think. I've just never gotten the hang of it; I always want to tie in other events and people and motivations and background. So short stories have always intimidated me. I know writers who can churn out several a week. I've written more whole books in the last few years than I've written stories in my entire life, school included.

I'm trying to get back to writing more regularly now that my little boy is in kindergarten. As a first step, I hope to finish this story and have it polished enough to submit to a contest  with a deadline at the end of the month. I guess I need to put more thought into where it's going and how to get it there, without turning it into a novel.

My story is about a geologist who leaves her science-grant-administrator job in Atlanta to search for meteor fragments embedded in a glacier in Alaska. I'm too unsettled about the rest to go into more detail than that. Actually, this story is one that began ages ago with a writing assignment my friend Lawrence and I gave ourselves. We chose five random words and decided we would each write a story incorporating those words. Lawrence, of course, prolific story-writer that he is, finished one promptly. He even got it published eventually. I, on the other hand, started this story but then got freaked out by the whole process, gave up, and went back to writing books. This time, I want to finish it.


Posted by: Tim W. Burke (timwb)
Posted at: October 21st, 2007 01:04 am (UTC)
Think of it as writing just one chapter, but with closure.

you can write a whole world if you want (and you should, for the sake of setting). But it is not a balancing act. It is an article. It is a news piece.

I could go on, but I don't know if this is helping.

Posted by: petrini1 (petrini1)
Posted at: October 22nd, 2007 05:06 pm (UTC)
Re: Think of it as writing just one chapter, but with closure.

Yes, Tim, that actually is helpful. And I'd welcome any other advice from you, since you are so much better at short stories than I am.

Posted by: Lawrence M. Schoen (klingonguy)
Posted at: October 22nd, 2007 01:46 pm (UTC)

Finish the story!

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: November 1st, 2007 02:35 am (UTC)
short stories

I actually hate reading short stories -like collections of them. I find that I finish the short story and wish I could read more about the characters -it's not enough for me. When I come across short story collections I almost always take a pass. I recently made an exception to my short story rule because Garth Nix wrote a short story that followed up on his Abhorsen trilogy and I was desperate to learn more about the characters (yes even after reading three books about them).

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