Writing

3 Reasons New Writers Should Try Writing Short Stories.

ShortsA few years ago I began writing short stories and eventually took the plunge in submitting some of them into competitions.  After having little success, I became disheartened, especially after paying entry fees and receiving no feedback.  Eventually I gave up my short stories and began wondering if they were becoming a lost art.

Last year, however, I attended a Short Story Workshop and posted on my blog advice on Writing the Short Story.  Now I am delighted to see that lately there has been a bit of discussion about the short story form.  Due to people’s hectic lifestyles,  shorter attention spans and indie publishing, there is renewed interest – May was unofficially short story month.

On her website, Joanna Penn discussed 5 Ways Short Stories Can Boost Your Writing Career, and Anne R Allen had great explanations on why Short is The New Long: 10 Reasons Why Short Stories are Hot.

So for new, unpublished writers, I’ve come up with three reasons why you should try writing the short story:

1. Short stories help you get to the point quickly.

Short stories don’t need a lot of build-up on setting and character development, so you need to get to the action right away.  This enables you to help hook your reader in, which is a great help when you want to write longer pieces.  Also, getting to the point quicker can assist with writing your resolution – an added bonus if you struggle with endings.

2. Short stories tighten your writing.

With a much shorter word count than the novel, short story writing can help you with the editing process.  You need to use fewer words in order to get your message across, so you need to make every word count.  Entering competitions is a great way to help reach that all important quota (just because the form is shorter, it doesn’t mean they’re any easier to write).

3. Writing short stories helps build up a body of work.

Short stories are a lot less time consuming.  Novels can take months and even years to write – however, depending on the length, the first draft of some short stories can be written within a week, even within a day.  You receive quicker feedback from your beta readers, so you have a better understanding on how your writing is progressing.  A larger body of work can tell publishers that you are taking your writing seriously.

Feeling inspired by this resurgence, lately I’ve been bringing new life into some of my short stories – how about you?

What are your thoughts on the renewed interest in the short story? Do you write them? Have you ever entered any into competitions? Were you successful? Have you given up on competitions and submitted them to publications instead?

Image by Debbie Johansson.

Writing

Beginner Writers: Finding Your Writer’s Voice.

Mr Men familyBeing a writer these days can be difficult; expectations are high.  As well as writing great books, we’re also required to be marketing gurus.  We can become so bogged down with too much noise that our muse can sometimes get lost.

When we’re new to writing and begin writing our stories, it’s exciting.  We’re so full of enthusiasm that we’re likely to try our hands at just about anything – even the latest trends, or the more popular genres.  I know; I’ve been there myself.  I used to see certain genres as my way of ‘making it’ as a writer.  But is all of this really to do with pleasing ourselves or with pleasing others?  We can spend our whole lives pleasing other people, but here’s the rub – pleasing other people all the time can become draining, physically as well as emotionally.  When we write, we need to please ourselves first and foremost; otherwise, where is the pleasure in it?

When it comes to writing we need to be true to ourselves.  Rather than imitate other authors, we need to dare to be different.  It will help our work stand apart from those other books upon the shelves and one sure way to make our name memorable.  Kristen Lamb has a great blog post on Steve Jobs and 5 Tips for Being a Successful Author which I highly recommend.

I had been writing for many years and the only pieces of writing I ever had published were either non-fiction pieces or poetry.  The problem was I had read so many different genres, I therefore wrote in such a wide variety of them that I didn’t have any real focus.  Yet, despite all of this, over the years the fiction writing I did not only helped me in my craft, but helped steer me towards my chosen genres.  I experimented with what worked for me and what didn’t; I stretched myself as a writer until eventually I was writing for me – I had lost all interest in trends and writing in genres I wasn’t comfortable with.  I had finally found my voice.

While watching The Book Club a few months back, guest author China Mieville said something that caught my attention and I just had to write it down. He said: ‘The job of a writer is not to give the readers what they want; the job of a writer is to make readers want what we give’. It’s a valid point and one that he has apparently been saying for years. He believes this might make the writers’ job harder, but it also makes it much more interesting.

Yes, our writing needs to be something that both readers and publishers will like, but it also needs to be something that we ourselves will like. Forget the latest trend; instead concentrate on your craft in order to find your own unique voice. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your writing, but write with passion. If you don’t feel that, neither will your readers.

Are you struggling to find your writer’s voice? Are you experimenting with your writing? Do you agree with China Mieville? Do you have difficulties with focusing on one task at a time?

Image by Debbie Johansson.