I can hear the patronizing whispers from the followers going: A Shortcut? She’s going to teach us a shortcut to writing?
Normally, I don’t prescribe to shortcuts since they always nick you right in the you-know-where. However, in this case, there is. In order to shorten the leap between normal life and hardcore writer, there’s a half step every wannabe writer should consider: Short stories.
It wasn’t until I took Creative Writing class that I didn’t start writing short stories. It was quite a shock to me when I got there when they said, “We are going to write short stories and poems.”
You could imagine my face couldn’t you?
“What?! No novels? But why!!!???”
I’m a novel lover since I was 12 years old! Let’s do the math: For ten years, I’ve been writing nothing but novels (and some poetry) until I got to this class which forced me to write short stories.
But why would the professors want short stories instead of novels?
Simple: Professors dimply don’t have the time to read through hundreds of papers to grade. They have a personal life and other classes after all.
They can read a couple of pages though.
Thus begun my toad to short stories and I have to say, it was a smooth transition. Once I figured out that there were a lot of characters (especially Jia) that I wanted to explore more about, it became a great exercise and easy! Who knew?!
Most of you are wondering: How can ANYTHING in writing be easy? You still have to outline and write, right?
Absolutely! But you know what makes short stories easier then writing a novel?
Scoot closer and I’ll tell you. Wait for your mind to be blown.
Are you ready?
It’s easier because of the length.
Yes, I know, the brilliant thought never came to your mind, huh, lol?
But seriously, think of how much time it takes to write a fill size novel. For some writers it takes a month (Stephen King takes a month I think, please correct me if I’m wrong), for others (like me) it takes a full year.
Yes, a whole year!
Do you know how long it takes me to finish a short story? 30 minutes tops. I even completed a short story in five minutes. You know how us college students wait until the very last minute to do stuff!
So not only will you not be spending a whole year writing one book, you’ll be spending perhaps a week to compile a short story collection a.k.a. an anthology.
Now is that leap shortening for you from normal life to writer?
So how do you start? Well, that’s easy. Do you have ideas you want to write or what genre? Then stick with it!
If you have a novel you’ve been dreaming of, now is the perfect time to write that back story of that novel.
If you have characters that you’ve been dreaming of writing, now here’s your chance.
“But what happens if we don’t have all of that?”
Well, the solution becomes a little tougher but still relatively easy: Get writing prompts.
Seriously. Just type in google: Writing Prompts and there are literally thousands to choose from.
Now that you have your prompts and ideas- “Woah, wait! How many should we have?!”
I’d say, to get a solid anthology going, at least 10 prompts/ideas. Just start off with a number that feels comfortable to you. For me, I wrote about fifteen short stories, but mine ran on the smaller side (which is from half a page to six pages at the most).
So now you have your ideas/prompts the question becomes: How do we organize and write them down?
This may aggravate some people, but this is how I suggest you do it.
Get a notebook, write Writing Prompts on it, and write the writing prompts in it.
With me so far? Excellent.
Then place the notebook on your nightstand so when you wake up an extra thirty minutes early every morning, then you’ll begin writing out the stories using the ideas/prompts.
Why do you need to wake up early?
It’s the best time to write, reflect, and focus. Not only is it quiet in the morning but ideas from dreams can be fresh and writing it down and running it into a story can be easy.
However, if the morning doesn’t work for you (like for my parents, they probably wouldn’t want to wake up at 3:30 am instead of 4:00 am) then I would suggest writing during your lunch time.
I know, it’s a weird time but it’s the right environment for some writers. Why?
Because it’s full of life and interesting situations. At least for me it is since I eat at the caf, I can hear all kinds of interesting snippets of dialogue (which is perfect for starting a new prompt and leading to new ideas) and watch the different situations play out (like a boy and girl eating lunch for the first time since they expressed their feelings for each other).
But if it’s difficult for you to imagine eating and writing, think about it this way: If you can read (you are constantly reading your genre if you’re a writer) and eat during lunch, then you can write and eat.
This is how I do it. I get my food, place it down at the table, reach into my bag and grab the notebook. Take a bite of food and then open it and read over the prompts. Puzzle over it and take a bite. I ponder over which ones I would like to do while eating then stop. Take a pen out and start writing. Pause after like a page or so of good writing, then back to eating. By this time, I’m probably halfway through my meal. Then after finishing another chunk of food, I write again. Pause. Finish up food, then write for the rest of the time allotted.
Sure it’s a bit tougher, but it can be done which is why I suggest writing in the morning.
Besides, if you’re constantly eating and writing, you’re going to mess up your writing once during those lunches. It’s just bound to happen. Eventually it’ll be messy.
Which is never good.
The tip here though is: Keep your writing routine.
Everyday wake up at 5:00 and keep at it. If you tend to fall back asleep, then keep your alarm at 30 min increments. For example, if you set your alarm for 5:00 am then set again for 5:30 and again for 6:00 am, that way you won’t fall back asleep for an hour and think, “Gee willikers, I wish I didn’t fall back to asleep!”
Now that we got your routine down to a fine science, here’s the multimillion dollar question: How long will it take to complete a full length anthology?
If you keep at it every morning, writing at least one short story, then it should roughly take you 10 days to complete.
Now let’s go over the benefits of writing an anthology:
1. It’s relatively easy and manageable
You still have to write a complete story which takes effort but (this is key here) it’s more manageable then writing a full length novel.
2. It helps you eventually write a novel.
If this is your goal, then this is a great way to explore characters in your novel before writing the great novel within you.
3. It can inspire new ideas.
Now let’s say you had no idea where to start; well, by the end of writing your anthology, then you’ll probably be bursting with new ideas to where you wanna go first.
4. This is a good sample
In other words, this is a great way to see if you really want to become a short story writer or a novelist. Maybe at the beginning you really thought that you wanted to write a novel, but the more you wrote short stories, the more you realized that you love it. You never know!
5. Great Marketing Strategy
Doesn’t matter what path you choose as a writer (traditional publishing or self-publishing) this is still a great tool to use. For the trad pubbers out there, you could use these stories to get your name out there. Try to get your story published in magazines or here’s something, use it to get into an anthology. Just because you wrote an anthology, doesn’t mean you can’t use one of your stories in another.
For self-publishers, you can use it to release it in smashwords for free, invite people to read and review it and get your name out there to launch your writing career. This is also a great way for your readers to get a sample of your writing and see if they want to read more.
It’s a win-win: You get a shot at the writing game without a lot of the risk. And nothing is better than that.
Everblossom: A Short Story and Poetry Anthology
Ebook By Larissa Hinton
Rating: Not yet rated.
Published: Aug. 11, 2011
An anthology that will quench your thirst for more than the ordinary. Everblossom is a journey through poems and short stories that may seem ordinary on the surface but dig a little deeper and the world not only shifts. It changes. Prepare yourself to delve into the three stages of the flower from bud to blossom then back to seed, you’ll go through them all with a whole new perspective.
Check it out here: GoodReads
Buy it here: Smashwords / Barnes & Noble / Amazon
Larissa’s Blog: A Three Way Tie
If you are reading this anywhere other than Melissa’s Eclectic Bookshelf, a feed reader, or via email subscription, then this content has been stolen.