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Posts Tagged ‘writers resources’

One of the best ways for a fiction writer to build up a portfolio and land the all-important agent is to write and publish short stories; a history of published material proves to your potential agent that you’re committed, that markets have found your work to be of value, and that you can follow through. But if you’re a novel writer by inclination or by practice, writing shorter material can present quite a challenge. How does one go about writing a tight, effective short story?

1. Know what you want to say. What is your story about? I don’t mean plot; what is the theme, or the main point of your story? What does your character learn? Knowing this in advance can help you keep from digressing down entertaining, but ultimately ineffective, paths.

2. Know your conflict. Before you sit down to write the text of your story, it’s good to know the main problem the protagonist has to solve to reach the end. Not knowing this can cause all sorts if diversions and wandering about.

3. One story, one plot. There isn’t room in a short story for much in the way of a subplot. Most effective short stories focus on only one conflict.

4. One story, one protagonist. Just as there isn’t room in short fiction for more than one conflict, there usually isn’t room for more than one main character. Your character can have friends and enemies, of course, but they usually serve as foils, as sounding-boards, as help, etc. for your main character.

5. Watch the time. Most short stories cover very short periods of time. If your conflict needs more than a couple of days to reach its resolution, chances are that you’ve got a novel on your hands, rather than a shorter piece.

6. Start at the last minute. No, I don’t mean that you should procrastinate. Start your story as close to the end as possible. Don’t waste time, space or words on a lot of backstory or setup; rather, dive headfirst into the conflict, as close to the climax as you possibly can.

7. Write in one sitting. If you write the first draft of your story in one straight shot, rather than in chunks, you’re less likely to overthink your story and wander away on one of those interesting digressions I mentioned earlier. Writing it all at once can also keep the energy of the story high, and the tone and voice consistent.

8. Have a plan. Lots of writers don’t like making outlines–I’m one of them. But when I sit down to write a short story, I need to at least know how the story will end; this keeps the story moving forward on a straight path, without wordy digressions.

9. Be merciless. The short story form, in my opinion, sharpens conflict because there is so little room for all of the events on the sidelines which can soften it. Take advantage of the form; pull no punches. Don’t waste verbage on being nice to your character.

10. Edit mercilessly. Just as there is no room in the short story for digressions, there is no room for padding. Anything that does not further your plot should be thrown away. Save those lovely descriptions of the summer’s day for something else, unless they give some crucial piece of information or tone to your reader. If something is not vital to your story, it weakens it.

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My computer died a couple of days ago.  Well, it didn’t completely die, but the video card did.  I didn’t lose any data; I just can’t see any of it.  Fortunately, my father-in-law owns a computer store and loaned me one until I can replace it.

For the two nights I didn’t have a computer, I felt like I’d lost a limb.  I sort of wandered around the house, not knowing quite what to do with myself.  I didn’t realize that the technology I’d thought of as simply another useful tool had come to play such a huge part in my life. 

I started thinking about technology, then in relation to writing.  Of course, technology plays a huge part in a lot of speculative fiction, whether in the highly advanced technology of futuristic science fiction, or the alternative technologies of secondary-world fantasy.  But technology doesn’t have to be vastly different from what we use now and today for it to be significant in fiction writing.

In what ways do your characters use current technology?  What roles does technology play in their lives?  How much of your plot and setting depends on it?  What happens if the technology they depend on doesn’t work?

If you could tweak one piece of existing technology to better suit your needs or desires, what would you do?  How would it affect other people’s lives?  If you could invent something that doesn’t currently exist, what would you create?  How would it change your life?  Your family’s life?  Your city, or your nation, or the world?

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1.  A Writer’s Journey: Tips on everything from writing good villains to making time to write.  Excellent site!

2.  Creative Liberty: Creative development across all media; this month’s focus is on developing creative momentum.  Especially good for those of us who practice more than one art.

3.  Beanery Writers Weblog: Home of the Beanery Online Literary Magazine.  Includes articles and tips on writing, as well as some really excellent fiction.

4.  Life of a Writer: Advice on writing, finding writing jobs, and juggling writing with the rest of your life.

5.  A Place for Strangers and Beggars: The blog of teacher and SF writer James Van Pelt.  Includes all sorts of interesting and useful advice from a professional.

6.  Becoming a Fiction Writer: An aspiring writer shares what she’s learning as she goes along.

7. Tripping the Muse: Everything from avoiding sexist language to selling your work.

8. Confident Writing: Tips from a writing coach.

9. Hope Writes: Creativity for writers of all stripes.

10. The Writers Group: “Four women share how they encourage, give feedback, and offer critique as they create their unique literary lives.”  A nurturing sort of blog.

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I ran across this post today at Art of Storytelling today.  If you’re feeling frustrated, stuck or discouraged in your writing, just click here.

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1. Endicott Studio : Home of The Journal of Mythic Arts; tons of well-written, thoughtful information about the folklore and fairy tales of many different cultures. Also, poems and stories by the like of Neil Gaiman, Charles de Lint, Jane Yolen and more.

2. Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing: An online course in speculative fiction writing from Jeffrey A. Carver

3. Exploring Ancient World Cultures: An introduction to Ancient Greece, Rome, India, China, Egypt, the Near East, early Islam and Medieval Europe.

4. Dave’s Mythical Creatures: A good place to start when populating your fantasy or science fiction worlds.

5. Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions: To help writers flesh out fantasy and science fiction worlds and how they work.

6. SpecFic World: Advice to Writers: Lots of articles specifically for fantasy and science fiction writers.

7. The Best of Legends: Information on some of the most famous legends of all time, including Robin Hood, King Arthur, Beowulf and more.

8. Ralan’s Webstravaganza: Extensive market information for F, SF & H writers; includes pay rates, guidelines and more.

9. Storm the Castle: Articles for writers, but that’s not all. Stretch your creativity with dioramas, model rockets and classical guitar as well. A plethora of information, nicely organized.

10. David Walton’s Writing Advice: Mostly links, well-organized, from a wide range of speculative fiction writers

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