Even though I did fall off my steady writing schedule in recent weeks, they managed to bear some unexpected fruit:
To explain, I need to back up a little and tell y’all what my views have been regarding the short story as a writing format. One of the first observations I made when I started to learn about the craft of writing was that the short story form is without doubt the most demanding of all. The demands on the writer regarding such things as word economy, pacing, characterization, are lofty in the extreme. With the short story format, the margin for error is literally ZERO.
That’s why, whenever I would read recommendations from published authors that aspiring novelists should begin by writing short stories, it sounded wrong to me. Why on earth would I begin with the most difficult format for the written story? Isn’t that backwards? Shouldn’t I start with a format that’s a little more forgiving and then work my way up to the hardest form?
As I was working on my most recent character treatment, it suddenly (and seemingly out of nowhere) occurred to me that I did indeed have it wrong and that I should have taken the advice from those published authors at face value. The truth of it is that, if you’re an aspiring novelist, you don’t write short stories for the purpose of writing great short stories – and you certainly don’t write them because they’re easier to write. If you’re an aspiring novelist, you write short stories for the same reason that runners run with weighted shoes and baseball players practice their swing with heavier bats than they’ll be using in the batter’s box. If you want to improve your craft – ANY craft – practice at the most demanding level possible. So, if you want to write the best possible novels you can write, practice by writing short stories explicitly because they ARE harder to write.
If you can learn how to pace a short story; if you can learn how to develop characterization and plot with the level of word economy required of the short story format – and learn to do it CONSISTENTLY – then you will find that your writing skills will have improved to the point that, once you start working on that rough draft of your novel, the plotting and pacing will be tight, the characterizations clear and succinct, and the overall word economy will be good, allowing you to focus more on the structure of your novel and how you’re telling your story – which is right where your focus should be.
I told you all of that to tell you this…
In addition to the character treatments I’ve been writing for the Chalandris setting, I am going to start working on writing some short stories for the setting, as well. I already have one in mind, in fact, and I can’t wait to get started on it. Because the short story is a publishable form, I won’t be posting them online, but I will make them available privately for those who are interested in reading them (assuming that doing so won’t adversely affect their ability to be published in the future – perhaps one of you folks in the know can tell me if I’m correct in that assumption).