Yes, This Will Be On the Test

Writing, Reading, Laughing

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Long and Short Story of It

At the beginning of 2012, I decided to mix it up a bit in my writer's journey. I've been on the 
query again
hamster wheel with manuscripts for a few years now. 

I've faithfully gone to conferences, latched onto amazing critique partners, blogged, and been a reading fiend to polish my skills. All my energies were focused on novels until...

Last January when I sold my first short story, a paranormal Hansel and Gretel extension called The Shimmer in the Woods that will be released any minute from Cliffhanger Books. Ironically I wrote it in an "I wonder if I can pull off a short story," moment. 

What followed was a year of writing and working with whip cracking editors on three more short stories that have seen the light of day in the Journeys of Wonder anthology series (check out the sidebar).

Had I become a traitor to my manuscripts?

Not at all.

My short story work has honed and sharpened multiple aspects of my craft by forcing me to:

  • Create a compelling story arc in a compacted space
  • Develop characters that matter right off the bat
  • Drop right into the middle of high stakes
  • Agonize over word choice to get maximum bang for my buck
  • World build in the blink of an eye
  • Add immediacy to every beat
  • Write in present tense instead of my beloved past tense

I've taken these mad short story skills and applied them to my existing manuscripts. It's been a great ride revisiting my darlings with a fresh set of eyes and making them the better for it.

What have you done to shake up your writing pattern?

If you want a brilliant "how to" on short story writing, run don't walk to get a copy of:
Ron Carlson Writes a Story


  1. The best thing I did was join Romantic Friday Writers and their Flash Fiction challenges. It has taught me so much. I'm a wordy person, and I can go on and on and on! :)

    Writing a short story only strengthened your other skills -- good for you!

  2. I was just talking about this with my writing group. Short stories really are great tools to help hone your craft. Definitely something I hope to try one of these days. Lately I've been doing a lot more reading aloud with my work, which has helped loads (well, so long as I can get it done somewhere no one can hear me!).

  3. Yolanda - You are brave. I love reading the Flash Fiction, but I'm a big chicken about writing it.

    Meradeth - I'm huge on reading aloud. Must be that BA in theatre insisting on equal time.

  4. Short stories are hard - I've tried a few, but they've all turned into novels... Maybe one day I'll try again.

    To shake it up, I'm trying a sorta/kinda outline/plotting technique for a 2nd draft. HARD! and slow - but I'm making progress :)

  5. Congratulations!

    When I started writing short stories, I learned the same kinds of lessons. I'm a much better writer as a result.

    I wish you success.

  6. That's fantastic, Leslie! I'm terrible with short stories, but I like the idea of mixing things up. I will have to investigate... :)

  7. Leslie,

    Kelly just drew the names of the winners of an eBook copy of her book INTO THE RED and you won. Please send me your email address yolandarenee(at)hotmail(dot)com so she can forward your prize.


  8. Short stories are so much fun, and yes - definitely a challenge! I think its fun to mix things up a bit too!

  9. This is very interesting. I've always wondered if I could right a short story. It's a challenge I want to try sometime. The way I changed up and strengthened my writing, I let go of my loose pantsing style and started outlining. It helped a lot.

  10. That's wonderful! I've written a very short story before but not a longer one. Maybe I'll try this...And congratulations on The Shimmer in the Woods! I look forward to reading it. :)

  11. Leslie: I totally relate to this! I've been putting my writing into gear as well. Since last July, I've been part of a local writer's group and it is so inspiring. Keeps me on track. I've also registered for the Northern Colorado Writer's Conference in April and attend a writer's workshop once a month. Writing can be so isolating so this social aspect is just what the doctor ordered.

  12. I'm about to shake it up when I finish school and actually have more time for writing. Woo!!

  13. I have little experience writing short stories, but even reading yours teaches me a lot. Your skills are top notch!

  14. Shamefully....nothing has changed for me lately. BAD DL!! :(

  15. I think it's all part of the journey and anything to add to it is AMAZING!!! Which, by the way, I am so happy for you and all your short story recognition. I can definitely see how it could help you with your novels. I think it sounds like this will be another fantastic year for you:)

  16. That's because you're AWESOME. Just sayin'

  17. I love short stories.Although I'm not so good at writing short. But you are so right about the benefits! And I love what you said about applying lessons learned toward our longer work!

  18. Congrats on selling a story, Leslie! Short fiction is tough to pull off successfully because of the economy of words required. Looking forward to more good news in the near future! : )