13 January 2011


Neil Gaiman, arguably one of the great speculative fiction writers of our time, claims he's struggling with one of his stories lately.

Gaiman says: And also, please wish me luck with this short story I'm writing. I'm up to page 19 and nothing's happened yet. Right now, they're eating porridge. In my head, by this point in the story everyone was going to be terrified, and strange oogly things would be happening to all the villagers. Porridge!

Nice to know I'm not the only one!!

I'd guess Gaiman is still learning about his characters and story, doing what I call "Authorial Discovery." I'd also guess he'll be smart enough to edit it out when it comes time to sell the thing. Alas, I see authorial discovery in our slush pile from time to time.

I've said it before here: I've learned over the past few years that I simply MUST plot to finish a short story. (I do my authorial discovery on a piece of paper in my big moleskin rather than in drafting.) Otherwise I will write reams to find out what's going on, and before I know it I'm knee-deep in a novel that's going no where. Those stories usually languish on my hard drive. I don't advise plotting for everyone; do whatever gets the job done.

Because even with a detailed plot, short stories are a struggle for me. Probably my biggest challenge is to come up with ideas concise enough for the short form. And for some reason, writing them feels more like drudgery than novel writing, even with the end always in sight. I've never figured out why. But write them I do, and I'm always glad (and more than a little relieved!) when I've got a finished product to send out.

What's your biggest challenge with writing short stories?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is definitely inspiring to learn that the masters of our art struggle w/the same issues we do. Thanks for posting this helpful info.