Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

Writing Short

October 2nd, 2011

After I started selling novels, I stopped writing short fiction, for two main reasons. First, I was better at novels. And second, the short stuff took me way too long to write. It didn’t seem like it was worth the investment of time.

But in this year of “trying new stuff” and “writing faster” I wanted to try writing short again, so I plotted a story. To make it easy on myself I set it in The Nanotech Succession story world and used a minor character from my novel The Bohr Maker as the protagonist–but the story is independent of the book and takes place some years before.

Psyching myself up, I figured “4,000 words–how hard could that be?” I knew the story would likely be much longer than that, but 4,000 words sounded so un-intimidating.

(Do other writers play these head games? I have no idea.)

And then I applied the “Write the first draft fast” approach. Four days later I had a 7,500 word story which I dumped raw onto my local writing group the day before we were due to meet. They were very good natured about it. Several more days went into revision, the story turned into a short novelette of 8,900 words, and now it’s ready to go to market.

Naturally I hope it sells, but after all these years of no short stories, simply having written it feels like a win.

Posted on: Sunday, October 2nd, 2011 at 4:40 pm
Categories: Writing.
Tags: , , ,

4 Responses to “Writing Short”

  1. Jared Nelson Says:

    Linda, I can confirm for you that at least THIS writer plays exactly those kind of head games. In fact, I’m doing that RIGHT NOW.

    I’m working on a short story for a contest, that can’t be any longer than 7,500 words. At times I tell myself, “Just write a scene or two. Won’t take long and it can’t be that long, so no worries, right?” Wrong. I get into the flow, and the next thing I know my 500 word scene turns into a 1,700 word set piece.

    This is my first really concerted effort at a short story, and I’m finding it’s so easy to forget how economical I have to be with my words.

  2. Linda Says:

    Yep, this is why we become novelists! You can see how I blew my 7500-word limit. One problem I always have is trying to shoehorn a complex storyworld into 7500 words or less and tell the story. Good luck with your story, Jared. Make it behave! 🙂

  3. Glen Says:

    Well, speaking as a confirmed reader / visualizer / imagineer / whatever (& perhaps “essayist”, but that’s another “story”), I find a place for both short and long fiction. But what are my dead-tree bookshelves stocked with? You bet, plenty of treasured novels, and very few anthologies (a single short story doesn’t bind well, so we can rule those out):

    * I can _remember_ some of my favorite short stories, so hardly need the sandwiching anthology.
    * Most anthologies are like most audio CDs in that there’s one I really like, another that’s pretty good, and a bunch that the publisher just sold myself-the-captive-audience. That doesn’t happen with novels because the so-so ones don’t have that redeeming social value, and end up getting recycled. And incidentally, it doesn’t happen with audio CDs because I no longer play that game.

  4. Linda Says:

    Some writers have started publishing chapbooks of shorter works. Your comments made me curious, so I checked at Lightning Source (the print-on-demand company I use) and their minimum page count on a perfect-bound book is an astonishing eighteen pages–which makes print-publishing a single short story do-able, though I think it would have to be an exceptional story to make it worth the effort and cost!