This week: Pushing Ourselves as Writers.Edited by: ember_rain
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When I write any newsletter, I draw from personal experience and things I have learned both here on WDC and from life in general. Hopefully what I say in this newsletter will prove useful to you.
Hi., I'm ember_rain and I am happy to be your editor for this edition of the Short Story Newsletter. I want to start this off by giving a big thanks to all the Mods and preferred authors who replied to my request for information. You guys Rock!
For those of you who know me, you know that every year I participate in National Novel Writing Month. It can get crazy and being someone who rarely plans out a story, it can sometimes go from crazy to insane the closer you get to November without so much as a main character in mind. Two years ago, I was in that position. I debated if I wanted to Nano that year at all. Things on a personal level were a bit stressed. I just wasn't sure I could justify the time. My husband reminded me that I write in November as my own personal birthday present to myself and insisted I go for it.
That same day I received a review for a couple of my short stories. Anyone who has read them might or might not be able to figure out I was playing with the same character from different fantasy perspectives. Those reviews sparked an idea that turned into the novel that I will be rewriting for a third time this November. To be honest, Niobie only has a small role in this novel. Its small but pivotal. She isn't my main character but without the short pieces I wrote about her, I would have never found the novel I have been trying to write for as long as I have been writing.
Those two stories were very personal to me though most certainly of the Fantasy Genre. Though both are utterly outside of the realm of possiblity, the depth of the character I discovered taught me something about myself as a writer, helped me to get a better understanding of the importance of character development, and lead me to my current project.
Never underestimate the short pieces you write. You never know when they might inspire you or someone else to write their own great masterpiece. Even on their own, short stories, can push us in directions we never thought we would take when it's time to write the next one.
I asked the Preferred Authors and Mods for some short pieces that they felt helped push them to become better writers. Here are some of the items they offered up.
These first two were provided by Elisa, Bunny Stik The comments under the links are her own words.
"Tapped!" is almost ten years old, but I still remember its initial reaction quite well. There were some people that hate rated it because I was willing to make my main character a homophobe, but there were others who were engaged by the pacing and the quasi-supernatural motif throughout the story. Aside from getting my first taste of truly diverse reactions, this is also one of the only times I've created a true villain. That experience made me realize I wanted to blur the line between good and evil much more, as morally gray themes give me more flexibility in character development.
"Eight By Ten" is a newer piece, one that pushed me to write something very short (as my attempts at short stories almost always end up in novella territory) in the timeframe of a week. I've been known to spend years on a short story. It's a piece with all sorts of morally gray areas that is partially autobiographical. I have never fully discussed the autobiographical aspect, but writing this story did help me come to terms with it. Some may call it a revenge piece. While that wasn't in my mind when I initially wrote it, I certainly wouldn't begrudge anyone who thinks of it as such. I'm actually kind of proud of the piece and even entered it in a Writer's Digest contest. I didn't win or even place, but that's fine by me.
Diane wrote the above story and said:
"My breakthrough item wasn't really about improving my writing in a technical sense so much as encouraging me to take risks with my writing. The topic of this story is very personal to me and kind of like when kids hide under the covers from the boogeyman, I didn't dare tempt fate by writing about it. It's not the best writing I've ever done, but for me it's a personal triumph that I wrote it and shared it."
jack-tyler wrote the above story and said:
"Spent 50 years writing novels. Self-taught from "how to write books" books. Began with sci-fi, turned to fantasy, but there was never anything special about any of it. The characters and planets/towns had different names, but they were my version of Star Trek or Lord of the Rings. Then two years ago I began to write "Beyond the Rails" . This is a steampunk short story series, and it isn't that they're great stories, or that they're in a great genre, but by being short, requiring tight word count discipline, and steampunk, a well-established genre with specific conventions that I'm not intimately familiar with, it forced me out of my comfort zone into an area where, for the first time in decades, I've had to study, learn, and be sharply aware of everything I do, both mechanically, and plotwise. Maybe that's the secret, "write what you don't know!" It has certainly made me think and do careful research, rather than just applying the same old rules, many of which I had become complacent about, and been misapplying or forgetting completely for years."
Jeff wrote the above piece and said:
"I wrote this story for a contest. I don't think it's around anymore, but it was Once Upon A Fractured Tale and, if I remember correctly, it was a contest that challenged writers to come up with a unique spin on an existing fairy tale. It's not my best writing, but it did serve as a turning point for me. It was the point where I realized the value of originality and uniqueness. Now, whenever I start working on a new story (especially when it's in response to a prompt), I immediately ask myself, "How can I spin this idea in a surprising direction?" That approach to writing started with this story, and ever since then I've endeavored to develop a port that's dedicated to the pursuit of that ideal... taking what's expected and turning it into the unexpected."
Lady Katie-Marie -Published :) wrote the above piece and said:
"This was one of the first short stories I had ever written for a competition. I remember it had a word count of 5000 which, granted, I now find quite luxurious. However, at the time I was used to writing novels and had written very few short stories and none restricted by word count. I remember that I went around 250 words over the maximum and had to spend hours going painstakingly through it word by word cutting it down to size.
It surprised me just how many words in there were unnecessary, and I not only managed to cut out enough to hit the word count but also a little extra so I could expand a few areas I thought needed it. The result was a story that flowed so much better than the pre cut version, and the pacing had improved too with the deletion of unnecessary descriptions and redundant phrases.
I can still notice the difference this piece has made to my writing, as when I check my stories for redundancy before submission, I find a lot less, if any, present. I had a particularly rough time with one of my recent ones “Realm of the Drowned” written to a 6000 word count. I went about 40 words over and thought: no problem, I’ll get that out easy. I found it very difficult because of my now much tighter writing style. It took me four hours to get it down and I had to take out some lines that, actually, did serve a purpose, in the end, but which wasn’t plot breaking. I have since learnt my lesson and now plan my plot lines ahead to make sure they are not too expansive for the word count."
writetight wrote the above and said:
"Prior to writing this story, most of my work was of a lighter nature. It was okay, but contained very little of me, my likes and dislikes and feelings. Before my Muse abandoned me, I could hear a word or phrase and my mind would start writing a story. They came fully developed, first word to last, complete with dialogue. All that was required of me was to sit down and begin typing.
This story was born as my wife and I sat in the bleachers between games of a Texas Rangers double-header on a beautiful spring evening not long after a good friend of mine succumbed to A.I.D.S. in the bleak surroundings of a hospital. Relaxed and comfortable, I closed my eyes and slumped in my seat as a cool breeze touched my face. I said, "This would be a great place to die. Right here; right now."
My wife responded with, "That's a stupid thing to say."
And the story began writing itself. By the third inning it was complete, and I could hardly wait to get home and begin attacking my keyboard."
J. A. Buxton wrote the above and said:
"That's easy for me. Years ago before joining WdC, I began writing fan fiction about my favorite TV show, "CSI." After friends read a couple of those short pieces, they suggested I convert them to my own setting and characters. I did and even added six more forensic stories. Those eight connected stories set in San Francisco are still in my portfolio, although other novels I've written since then are now available on both Smashwords and Amazon.
You might say my adoration for William Petersen as Grissom began my writing career. The first story linked below is one of the two that began as fan fiction, so you might still see bits of Grissom in the my first story's hero, Jeff Randall."
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So what item did you find difficult to write, or that pushed you in a direction you didn't expect? I look forward to reading your responses.
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