Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Writing short

I feel like I'm channeling our on-leave Kathryn Lilley, who gave KillerHobbies some of its most memorable images. This photo is of a termite. In a minute you'll see what it has to do with writing.

I attended a short story workshop, given by Sophie Littlefield and Tim Maleeny, two very talented Sisters in Crime.

Having just submitted my twelfth novel to my editor, I found it a bit daunting to think short! Sophie and Tim were wonderfully instructive about structuring short stories in a different way from novels. Start with one idea, add one "concept" or story thread. Keep it simple, easy to pitch.

Hearing the various ideas and stories of the attendees was inspiring, but one stood out —from a woman who did a stint as a writer of radio commercials. She'd have to get a message across in as little as 30 seconds.

Here was her example, a commercial she wrote for a pest control company:

How does a termite hide in a wall?

He puts on a helmet and pretends he's a nail.

Canned laughter – then:

Termites – it's no joke.

Now I'm trying to squeeze my short story idea into a 30-second jingle!

Does anyone else find it hard to write short?


Ann Parker said...

Oh my gosh, yes, count me as someone who has a heckuva time writing short. My philosophy: Why use one word when three will do? ;-)

Monica Ferris said...

Writing short - ouch! I have sold over two dozen short stories, but fewer and fewer as time goes on. I guess I now pretty much think in terms of the complex story lines of a novel. I recently finished a short story I submitted to an anthology, and it was amazingly difficult. I now think I was trying to cram a novel into a few thousand words.

Anonymous said...

First off, don't like the pic of the termite - ugh! I think you could get something across in a short version, maybe not very short, but short - for you. But I always want/get/enjoy more from you! xoxoxoxo

Camille Minichino said...

I don't like the termite either. Don't know what I was thinking!
Don't worry, I'm not about to do a miniature termite scene.

Camille Minichino said...

Monica, I've had only a couple of shorts published, and thought it was difficult, also -- if it's going to take so much effort, why not just write a novel??

I am going to try another though.

Camille Minichino said...

Reader alert: Ann Parker's three words will be beautiful!

Betty Hechtman said...

I had some short mysteries and romances published in Woman's World. They are very strict about word count and it keeps getting shorter.

For me, those stories were all about rhythm. I liked the challenge of finding ways to say things in fewer words.

Sophie said...

Woman's World is a wonderful market for teaching you to be economical with your prose...I've yet to place a story there, though, so kudos to Betty!

Good luck to everyone who's trying a new form - I think branching out makes a writer stronger in all their work...
- Sophie

Monica Ferris said...

I sold a short-short to Women's World once upon a time. Whew, that's when you really explore the world of contractions!