Thursday, November 7, 2013

Guest Post: Lisa Gail Green Shares Tips on Writing Short Stories

Hoping to flex your writing skills this month for NaNoWriMo, but intimidated by the prospect of churning out an entire novel? Why not challenge yourself with a short story instead?

Author Lisa Gail Green, whose short stories have been published in all three Journeys of Wonder anthologies, and whose paranormal fantasy novel, THE BINDING STONE, debuted this year, is here to tell you how.

Take it away, Lisa, and thanks for stopping by my blog!


Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Sarah! *Puts feet up on sofa* You’re wondering what it’s like writing short fiction versus a novel length manuscript? The short answer is – not too much.
  • You still have to use a full (albeit probably simple) story arc.
  • You still have to revise like crazy until it’s as perfect as you can get it.
  • You’re still responsible for developing your character as well. No shortcuts just because it’s only a thousand words long. 

What’s different in a short story?
  •         You can’t have more than a few characters. Too many take too much space and you won’t be able to do them justice. It’s best to stick to your main character and one or two extra characters that he/she interacts with. Then you have room to work with.
  •         You have to get to the point. You can’t spend pages going on about the d├ęcor. You really have to pick and choose when it comes to description and use what is important to your character and the story. Don’t forget to filter through your character’s POV.
  •          No place for subplots. Can you do it? Well… yes. BUT it’s really, really tricky and I don’t recommend it when you’re starting out. Practice first like with anything else. And any subplot you use should definitely be intertwined with your main storyline.

Now here’s the trick though. All of these elements can be used to tighten your novel. That’s right; short stories are good for writers. They’re another way to stretch your writing muscles and a great exercise. Plus, if you get one or two publication credits by getting a short story or two accepted somewhere then that can go in your bio and can bolster your self-esteem. It’s a win-win situation.

Take a look at the similarities with all that in mind: 
  • You get to practice making your characters count. In a novel you have to eliminate and combine non-essentials just like in a short story. And no one should be one-dimensional. 
  • You should ALWAYS filter through character and eliminate superfluous description, etc. 
  • Your subplots should reflect the theme at the very least and if you can somehow bring them together with the main plot – even better.
The structure of both short stories and novels are the same, though short stories can be difficult in that they limit your space. But that’s the best reason I can think of to encourage everyone to write them.