I’ve been looking back at the short stories I have half finished, and have finally clicked onto the thing they have in common – the reason why they aren’t finished right now, and why I am struggling to complete some of them.
I don’t know how they end.
A short story is not the same as a novel, in SO many ways, but in this way more than others (for me). I can start a novel with a few key things, often that doesn’t include knowing how things pan out at the end, or even how the characters will get there. Sometimes, I might have an inkling, but not often.
I’ve started many short stories in the same way. ‘OH! that’s a neat idea’ <opens a new document, types for a bit, gets scene out of her head and then gets distracted/stuck/called away for motherly tasks>. I’ll go back later, and still be stuck, and feel a bit lost, and not really know what I’m doing, then walk away, adding another story to the list of things that remain incomplete.
I used to think that I just sucked at short stories. I just didn’t ‘get’ them, and so struggled to write them.
Not so! I just hadn’t yet discovered that in fact, the best way to write a short story (for me) is to hash it out in my mind before I start writing. I need a beginning, middle AND end to work on a short, because I don’t have months ahead of me to figure out where I’m going. I only have a few thousand words and that method simply doesn’t work outside of novels (and novellas too on occasion).
See, there was a reason that my best short stories were the ones I sat down and wrote start to end in one sitting – I actually knew how those ones ended.
Now that I know this, I’m not going to dive into any brilliant new ideas before I’ve got those bases covered. Unless I have a clear destination in mind, I shall not be writing it.
Funnily enough, I’m discovering more and more often that I know where things end for my longer works these days. I used to struggle with that thought, finding the writing boring because I KNEW where it was going – now I find that the adventure is half the fun.
Besides, you never know what might change on the path towards ‘the end’.