I’ve been trying to think of the right way to say this, but it feels like it’s hard to get into words. I know that short stories might not be such a huge catalyst for change in some people but I am definitely finding that I write, and read, differently to the way I did back when I was purely a novel girl.
I used to loathe the short. Now I love them. It’s been a fantastic learning curve figuring out how to bring a story to fullness with less words. It’s made me see just how much excess there was in my writing and challenge myself to find ways to tell the story without expounding on unnecessary details – in fact, it’s made me stop and really assess which bits of a story/back story are important, and which are just things I feel like writing about because they are cool.
It’s given me the chance to explore genres and ideas that I might not have put the time and effort into, without feeling like I ‘wasted’ said time and effort. If at the end of the day I have a short story that doesn’t really work, I can guarantee I’ve still learned something from it because it’s the process of coming up with an idea, writing it, rewriting it, editing it – all those things you have to do with a novel too – but condensed into a smaller frame of time and words. And some of those lessons? Boy, I am pleased I didn’t have to spend 90,000 words or so learning them!
I think I’ve learned more in this last year about writing than I have in all the years before now. I’m really looking forward to giving novels another go with all of this new knowledge behind me. That said, I am avoiding reading any of the ones I’ve already written for fear of what I might find – seriously, I imagine there is a lot of flab! I am confident the stories are still good and the plots aren’t riddled with obvious flaws, but I think I could write them a whole lot better if I gave it another go now.
I guess thats one of the things with writing – any time you look back you’ll find things you could do better. No matter how amazing you’re first published piece was (long or short), 5 years down the line its going to look less than shiny compared to what you’re currently working on.
Anyway, it’s also changing the way I read. I recently spent some time reading the first chapters of another writer’s novel in progress and instantly I could see where it could be tidied up – which bits of information were really moving the story forward and which were just holding it back.
Now, I’ve managed to be critical with novels in the past, but never before have I felt so able to see exactly where the strengths and weaknesses of a chapter lie. I seem to have found this new sense of clarity and it’s really freaking awesome. Let’s hope it holds true for when I get a chance to reassess some of my own novels.
Note to reader: after countless interruptions and having spent about four hours (mostly) off and (occasionally) on writing this post, I’m giving up. I think I had more I wanted to say but boy, I don’t remember what it was!
I think what it comes down to is that short stories are really worthwhile. I KNOW I’m going to be a better novel writer when I get back to them because I’ve spent this time writing shorts. Not only will I have a few publishing credits to my name when I have a novel ready to shop around, but I’ll just be an all around better writer. I thoroughly encourage everyone to write shorts. Explore, play, experiment.