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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Writing a Short Story

Hello Fellow Writers!

I'm still in a bit of shock that I actually found the courage to send a query and synopsis to Harlequin for my romance "The Movie Star's Very Personal Assistant". My husband used to warn that I was going to spend all my time writing and never get published because I refused to put myself out there and risk rejection.

Then I realized that it doesn't matter if a manuscript gets rejected, because I can always write another one.

Since I recently finished writing the first draft of another novel length romance ("Snowed in With a Millionaire") I've been toying with the idea of writing a short story. Why toy, you ask? Why not just write the darn thing? Good question, and you're right. My plan for today, if my baby allows it, is to read a Harlequin Historical Undone online and then try my hand at it. I love historical romance but every time I try to write one I find myself getting caught up in all of the little details that need to be researched.

So I think what I need to do is write a first draft, details be damned, and then go back in and do the research during the editing process. Otherwise I get jammed up in the middle of trying to write by googling Regency era underwear.

Since Harlequin Historical Undone stories are 10K -15K words, here is an excerpt of an essay entitled "How to Write a Short Story" by Paul Saevig, from Author-Network.com. Read the whole article here.

1. Immerse yourself in language.
To be ready to write a story in English, your consciousness must be steeped in the best writing in English throughout history. Consider someone who wants to compose music. Before doing that, she probably performs in a band, and before that, she probably studies singing or an individual instrument. She learns how to read music, she studies harmony, she listens to all kinds of good music for years, and she may study at a conservatory. Wynton Marsalis didn't just decide to go into his first recording studio to play the trumpet one rainy day while he was recovering from the flu.
Author Dean Koontz is on record as opposing "literature writing", which is what he calls the classics. But he suggests no alternative for the best and most elegant writing of the ages. He is one of the rare few successful writers without much formal training. His critics insist they can tell the difference in his writing.
If you want to write stories, you should study the literary form. You should study the great masters of storytelling, starting with Homer and progressing to Stephen King and John Irving,, and specifically the great masters of the short story, starting with Turgenev and Chekhov. Read as many books as you can find. You must read classics, not just current popular books. Tolstoy will teach you more about writing than Dean Koontz. You are steeping yourself in language. Keep a journal. Write letters (not just Emails) to your friends. Take writing classes.
2. Think of an idea for a story.
To a trained writer, this idea usually comes in a flash, you have to know how to cultivate the flash. Usually one element of the idea is settled from the start: "I want to write a story about my Uncle Leo" or "The summer we lived in Honolulu" or "The day President Kennedy was shot".
What about that summer we lived in Honolulu, then? Concentrate on what makes that experience significant to you. What other idea would you like to attach to it? Suppose it were "the professional surfers".
That gives you "the professional surfers the summer we lived in Honolulu". What about them to you want to write a story about? Maybe it would be "the surfer who stole my sister's wallet".
"The professor surfer who stole my sister's wallet when we lived in Honolulu one summer". That's a start.
3. Figure your angle.
"Angle" is a journalistic term meaning significance. You need to decide the angle or significance about this larcenous surfer. Your story could be about the theft itself, or tracking him down afterwards, or deciding not to prosecute him and meeting up with him again, or dozens of other alternatives.
If you can't determine an angle, return to Number 1 and tinker with your idea. Maybe you need a new one.

I just finished reading a Harlequin Presents book by Caitlin Crews called "Pure Princess, Bartered Bride". Wow, what a fun read! I picked it up and was halfway through before I even realized what happened. I'll definitely be looking for her future books. She also writes chick lit under the name Megan Crane.

So today I'll be reading a Historical Undone, and hopefully getting started on a short story of my own. Tomorrow I'll be meeting with my writing group. I've sent them Chapter 2 of my WIP so we'll see what they say about that...

Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
Yours Truly,
Shoshanna Evers

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