Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Ultimate Slice 'n' Dice

So, I've never really written a short story before, but I wanted to try one and enter it into a writing contest. My writing group has helped me with ideas and format, and then I sat down to write it.

My first draft was just warming up, and was already way over the length limit. I know, you're just shocked that I would write something too long. So I re-thought, re-focused, and re-started. My second version was a lot tighter, and I got the whole story finished.  But it was still too long. The limit was 2500 wds, and I ended up with 4100.

Back to my critique group.

I had one member who went through and chopped it down to 2850 for me. His effort gave me some hope. I let the story sit for a week or so, then I went back and started chopping myself before I even looked at his suggestions. I wanted to make sure my voice remained the same throughout. I was so proud of myself when I finished that step at 2900 wds. That's huge for me! Then I compared it to my compatriot's suggestions and was able to trim it down another 150 words.

It was fascinating to me to see that we both corrected/revised a lot of the same parts. It was encouraging to me that I can really "revise" my own writing, which I wasn't so sure I could do effectively. But it was also interesting to note a few phrases, sentences, or scenes that I thought weren't important enough to keep, but he did, and vice versa. Now we'll go through the same process again.

But here's the main point. I realized why I don't really write short stories. I don't particularly like them (at least for my own writing). I would call a short story the Ultimate Slice 'n' Dice because I feel like that is exactly what I have done. Yes, my story is more concise, and the essential elements are there, but I feel like there is a lot missing to my story. It was a great exercise for me, if nothing else, and it will benefit my novel writing too, but I'm glad I have more space as a novelist.

One thing I really miss the most is dialog. I have some dialog in my story, but if I had more space, I feel like I could use it so much more effectively. There is a lot of backstory that I either had to eliminate completely or mention merely in passing. The emotional impact of the story, I think, could be so much more effective if I could paint up an action-dialog scene. And that's the other thing I'm missing -- explanation.

My story is a bit of a supernatural story, and I just don't have the space to give to all of the events that really make it horrific. So they are, again, either absent, or told in a sentence. I've already decided that I will make this story into a novel someday and give my story some space to breathe rather than hyperventilate.

So I have a much greater respect for the master storytellers out there as compared to the novelists. I've read some fantastic short stories, and it amazes me that a writer can pack so much into such a little space. That is a skill I don't have, but maybe over the years (and revisions) I can develop.