Learn to Write a Short Story

1 11 2018

How to Write a Short Story from Start to Finish

To some extent, the process for writing a story is different each time. In the introduction to American Gods, Neil Gaiman quotes Gene Wolfe, who told him, “You never learn how to write a novel. You only learn to write the novel you’re on.”

This is true for short stories as well.

And yet, there are certain patterns to writing a short story, patterns I think everyone follows in their own haphazard way. I’ll call them steps, but they’re more like general paths that may or may not apply to your story. Still, it’s these patterns that I want to present to you in hopes it will make your own short story writing easier.

Read further @ The Writer Practice

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On the Art of Flash Fiction

13 04 2018

ON THE VERY CONTEMPORARY ART OF FLASH FICTION

Lord Chesterfield called the novel “a kind of abbreviation of a Romance.” Ian McEwan described the more compact novella as “the beautiful daughter of a rambling, bloated, ill-shaven giant.” William Trevor considered the short story “essential art.” Writing a story, he said, is infinitely harder than writing a novel, “but it’s infinitely more worthwhile.” And now we have the even shorter story, a form that was validated, if it needed to be, when Lydia Davis, whose stories are sometimes a sentence long, was awarded the 2013 Man Booker International Prize. In their citation, the judges said of Davis’s works: “Just how to categorize them? They have been called stories but could equally be miniatures, anecdotes, essays, jokes, parables, fables, texts, aphorisms or even apothegms, prayers or simply observations.”

The short-short story is narrative (or it’s not) that is distilled and refined, concentrated, layered, coherent, textured, stimulating, and resonant, and it may prove to be the ideal form of fiction for the 21st century, an age of shrinking attention spans and busy and distracted lives, in which our mobile devices connect us to the world as they simultaneously divert us from it. And on the screens of our smartphones and our iPads and our laptops, we can fit an entire work of flash fiction. It’s short but not shallow; it’s a reduced form used to represent a larger, more complex story; it’s pithy and cogent, brief and pointed, and like the gist of a recollected conversation, it offers the essential truth, if not all the inessential facts.

The market for flash fiction is extensive and it’s growing. A Google search for flash fiction markets nets 719,000 hits in .55 seconds. Duotrope lists 4,700 publications looking for flash fiction, and a few of those outlets publish 365 stories a year. Your chances of finding a home for your short-short story are considerably better than they are for your novel. What better way to break into the world of publishing, to get your name out there, to earn the endorsement of editors, to introduce your beloved characters to an appreciable number of readers? If your dream is to write a novel, consider that flash fiction might be your first small step. I learned to write novels by writing short stories and learned to write short stories by writing very short stories before they had a snappy name.

While flash fiction may be quickly read, it is not often quickly written. Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.” To be brief takes time. But the obvious fact is that it does take less time to write a short-short story than it does the longer forms. It might take years to write a novel (it does for me), months to write a story, but only weeks, maybe days, if you’re lucky, to write a very short story. And an occasional morsel of sweet short-term gratification won’t make you sick. Promise! With the end so close in sight, you are emboldened, and you learn to finish. If you don’t finish, you can’t revise, and if you don’t revise, you won’t learn to write.

Read further @ LitHub





Interview with Helen Oyeyemi on Her New Work

4 05 2016

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Author Helen Oyeyemi on the Politics—or Not—of Writing Black Female Characters

In Helen Oyeyemi’s new short story collection, “What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours,” keys aren’t always, well, the key. We spoke to the 31-year-old fiction writer about the book, her nomadic lifestyle, and whether she considers her work political.

The Ibadan-born, London-raised, Prague-inclined fiction writer Helen Oyeyemi is currently living in Lexington, Kentucky, a city that greeted her January arrival with an ice storm. (“Quite unnerving.”) Oyeyemi, whose sixth work of fiction and first book of short stories, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, was published by Riverhead this month, is in town for a residency at the University of Kentucky. Oyeyemi is notoriously nomadic—she spent her 20s going from European capital to European capital, looking for a city she “could be in a relationship with”—and I expected the dreamy yet very much cosmopolitan author to be a little out of her depth in Appalachia.

But the dreaminess she brings to her fiction, which draws from a variety of mythological traditions, seems to carry into her life as well. “I find it quite hard for the place I’m physically in to make a dent on my mind,” she told me over the phone. “It might actually be because I read so much that I’m already in other places, so it’s just a difficulty in even knowing where I am at any given time.”

Read further @ Broadly





Writing the First Pages

3 11 2012

3 Essential Elements Of A Book’s First Page

If you’re a writer with publishing goals, then you know how important it is that the literary agents or editors reading your material keep reading. After all, if your submission doesn’t hook the reader right away, there are plenty of other submissions to take its place. With that in mind, we’ve outlined three major elements that make or break a piece in the first few pages so that you can make sure you’re submitting the best short story, essay, or book query possible.

1. Character
Any character you present in the opening pages of your essay, short story, or book manuscript should be intriguing. Don’t waste any time; show the reader quickly why it’s worth getting to know the character.

2. Opening Action
To quickly hook your reader, focus in on an intense and important moment. This doesn’t have to be a flashy, shocking scene—and shouldn’t be unless truly appropriate.

3. Setting
Choosing a unique, unexpected, extraordinary setting will give you the automatic bonus of a higher interest factor in your opening pages.

Continue reading @ Huffington Post Books