So, after months of random pictures of the forest and wamblings about riding and this and that and the other, here is a post about writing. Amazing, considering how much time I spend putting pen to page (or fingers to keyboard) these days, but for a long while, I haven’t felt I’ve had much to contribute. There are a lot of good people saying intelligent things about the craft of writing, and mostly I’ve been more than happy to read and nod. I mean, I’m still cutting teeth, so each day I discover something that folks who have been doing this a while probably take for granted.
I found something I wanted to write about. About writing.
Earlier today, I was reading a blog that I love, and through it found a new-to-me market for folkloric literature. Way back when I started this writing gig (which isn’t all that way back, but that phrase has a nice ring) I began by writing a lot of fairy tales. One of my favorite books when I was a kid was called The Enchanted Garden (I still read). It contains fairy tales from all over the world and the most gorgeous illustrations, so when I started to write fiction, it seemed natural to use that book as a departure point. For some reason or other, I got the impression that I should turn away from fairy tales and such. Don’t know why, and it seems I’m venturing back into those good, green woods – at least in the short fiction I’m writing.
The big epiphany was when I dredged up one of my old stories today (I think it was the second or third short story I wrote), and even though I cringed when I opened the file, when I got to reading it, I thought…hey, this isn’t cringe-worthy at all! So, I polished it up and sent it out. The interesting thing for me was this story was the genesis of D-B, but that’s another post.
The other interesting thing is this: writing short stories has helped me get to where I am as a writer, and if there’s one thing I would recommend to a new writer, it would be to learn how to write shorts. They’re hard – harder than a novel? I don’t know. That’s a little apples and oranges, but I do think the skills required to write a good (whatever than means) short story translate to longer fiction. The beauty of a short story is that it’s easy to pick it apart, to look at word choice and character arc and story arc, and it’s a great way to practice word economy. I’m all for word economy, because for me, good word choice makes for evocative fiction. And, because a short story is, well, short, getting one’s head around the structure is a lot more feasible than trying to do the same thing with a novel. (And, read them too! There’s so many exciting things going on in short fiction…)
After all, one thing that was recently pointed out to me by my (awesome – sorry for the gush, but…she is awesome!) agent is that pretty words need something to hang on. Without good structure, pretty words just rot teeth. Okay, that’s not exactly what she said, but something along those lines. Think good foundation garments. Strong mortar. That sort of thing.
And, another great thing about short stories? Because they’re short, a writer doesn’t have to devote years and years of his or her time to them. If they don’t work, trunk ’em. You’ve probably learned something, and if they do work, take those skills and apply them to longer works. Besides, it’s way easier (in my opinion) to write a single plot arc with two or three characters than trying to start off writing multiple plots with multiple points of view with multiple character arcs, not to mention the sub-plots that are often involved in novel-writing. And, if you want to test out something weird, like writing in second person or using fragments, or whatever, a short might be just the thing. You’ll know pretty quickly whether it’s working or not.
Besides, I’ve found that short fiction is a super breeding ground for longer works, for both Shadows and Djinn-Blade found their beginnings in short stories, and I’ve actually written short stories that are now incorporated into the text of these novels, so you never know when short might be long, or long might be short. And, besides (the second), a good story is a good story is a good story. And, besides (the third), they’re fun. Fun is good!