Sunday, January 29, 2017

Short and Sweet

The short story pitch I wrote about in last week's post got picked up, which means that I get to put together the story for an anthology to be released later in the year.

After spending 2016 working on novels, I'm excited to get to work on some short fiction again. As much as I love longer projects, there's something refreshing about writing a short piece.

I think part of the fun of short fiction is the ability to stretch myself stylistically. When I'm working on a novel, I'm focused on telling the story in the long run. I want to keep my style consistent, to keep the character's voices steady and distinct. I've got to make sure that I'm keeping track of all of the aspects of the world--to make sure that I don't negate on page 200 something that happened on page 50.

Some of these concerns are still present in short fiction. Keeping character voices consistent and making sure that the logic of the world flows well are always important. But since the project's length is more manageable, I feel more able to experiment.

I wouldn't at this point, for instance, try to write an entire novel in present tense. But I did just that with the last short story I wrote--just to see how that change in tense changed how the story felt. I wouldn't try to keep every sentence as short as I could when working on a novel, but I might do that to manipulate the pacing in a short story.

Part of it is a time commitment. It usually takes me about three to four weeks to knock out a draft of a short story (and by short story, I mean something under 15,000 words--usually between 7 and 10,000). Outside of the pace I write at during NaNoWriMo--a pace which is not sustainable--the first draft of a novel can take between 6 months and a year. With a short story, I can tell more quickly if something that I'm trying doesn't work for the whole project, and even large-scale overhauls are easier to manage. It takes a lot less time to rework 10,000 words than 80,000.

There's also the fact that there is, in general, less information to keep up with and a shorter stretch of time during which I have to manage it. Short fiction has fewer characters, fewer story beats, fewer subplots. Since there's less information that I have to keep up with, there's less likelihood that I'm going to forget something important if I play around with my writing style.

Novel writing is where I make use of every tool in my arsenal. Short fiction is where I play around with and learn to use new tools.

I'm not sure what experimenting I'll do with this new project, but I'm excited to start playing around with something new and to see what new tool I manage to figure out for the next long project.

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