Adding the new Short Fiction page has prompted some reflections on writing.
There’s an idea in circulation that a short story is in some way harder to write than a novel. I don’t think for a minute that this is the case, but looking at the relative word-count, the effort to get 3000 words right does feel disproportionate compared to, say, 100,000. Come to think of it, my stories usually start at around 3,500 and end up just over 2000, so there seems to be a law of diminishing returns in there somewhere. Short stories, in view of their brevity, also lend themselves to microscopic examination, and I remember John Ravenscroft (former editor of Cadenza) describing them as the ‘shetland ponies’ of the fiction world, by which I think he meant they were short but showy (rather than cute but bad-tempered!) At any rate, they should never be tackled by anyone with a low ‘completer finisher’ score on the Belbin grid!
On the other hand, the process of writing fiction of any length is, at least in my case, basically the same:
- Get the story down
- Adjust it in terms of structure, pace and resolution until you’ve said what you wanted to say
- Put it aside, find out what others think and take another look at it yourself
- Have another go
- Get more feedback (and/or take another break)
- Carry out a detailed line edit
- Do another edit
- Possibly another
- Repeat last 4 steps for as long as it takes
Try factoring this up to the 30+ chapters and 100+ scenes of a novel, and no wonder it’s such hard work!