Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Short, Sweet, and in Print! by Angela K Couch +giveaway!

After years and years of pounding out 50,000 – 85,000 word novels, last spring I tried my hand at something under 6000 words. My introduction to the short story. Needless to say, it took several attempts to get the story depth and length to coincide, but in the end I was quite pleased with my efforts—Fire In a Storm set in 1934 USSR—and even more pleased when I learned it was a finalist in the 2014 Storming the Short Story contest and would be published in the anthology Out Of the Storm.

After trying unsuccessfully to break into publishing with my novels, seeing my words in print within the next year felt really good. I was hooked. Just in time to be informed of another short story opportunity. This one gave me a whopping 7000 words to work with. Piece of cake. ;)

My second story, Shackled, a western romance, was quickly accepted for publication by Next Step Books for a romance anthology that will be released this fall. *Happy dance*. Since then, I have written two more short stories for contests (still waiting on those, but one is a semifinalist so far!), and would like to share what I have learned about the art of a short story—which I am still striving to learn.

Backstory: 
You can only use tidbits of backstory because of the word constraints, but make sure you still have it. The better you know your character—their little quirks, likes, dislikes, and everything from their past that made them who they are—the deeper and more three dimensional that person will look on the page. It will show in how they view the word.

(In Shackled, the hero’s occupation before he headed west was as a carpenter. He can’t help but notice loose boards, quality of wood, and craftsmanship, etc. It adds nothing to the plot, but it brings the character to life.)

Secondary Characters: 
If they are not vital to plot, character development or setting, you don't have room for them.

Tension:
Really this isn’t much different than in a novel, only easier as you have less words to extend it across. Make sure it’s there, from the first sentence to the last. I am actually more prone to set down a short story than a novel when the tension wanes. After all, there are usually other short stories to turn to in the same book.

Tightening:
The benefit of a short story over a novel is that instead of 80,000 words, you have less than 8000 to analyze in detail, making sure they are the best fit. It’s easier to cut all those lazy verbs, weasel words, and airy descriptions, bringing the action to life in a few short words.

Show: 
I know it’s often easier to keep the word count down by simply telling what happened, but don’t do it! I mean, you can—a sentence here and there—but still show us the story. Let us be there, experiencing those few minutes of life that have been etched into the pages—or single page—of your short story.

The End: 
Be ready for it, it comes quickly, and don’t linger after the resolution. Unlike a novel, you don’t have room for a full chapter or epilogue telling of their “happily ever after” (if you give them one) and you don’t need it. Reading a short story is not like watching twelve hours of epic Lord of the Rings and needing a half hour to unwind before you can live with yourself again. Don’t waste words. End it strong.

These are only my observations from my writing. Have you tried your hand at writing short stories? What have you found works?

If you like short stories, leave a comment and e-mail address for the chance to win an e-book copy of the anthology Out of the Storm.

Angela K Couch lives in Alberta, Canada with her “hero” and three munchkins. Fascinated by history and in love with creating fiction, she's been lost in writing most of her life. As a passionate believer in Christ, she can't help her faith from permeating the stories she tells. Often her martial arts training, love of horses, and appreciation for good romance sneak in there as well. She has been a finalist and semi finalist in several short story contests and was a semifinalist in the 2015 Genesis Contest. Visit her at www.angelakcouch.com, or follow on Twitter or Facebook!

24 comments:

  1. Angela, great post! Congrats on your short story contest success and publications! Thanks for sharing your writing tips :)

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  2. I haven't tried my hand at a short story in a very long time, so I appreciate your insights. Congratulations on your success thus far and here's to many more!

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  3. Congratulations, Angela. I, too, tried some short stories for a change and found them fun and rewarding. No need to pad to meet a word count! :-)

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    1. Amen. I find I can do brevity. It's hard when you are done telling your story in 75,000 words and the publisher you want to pitch to wants 85,000. ;) Also, it's nice to feel some accomplishment after a few months, instead of years.

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  4. My grandmother always told me to write short stories, but I find it so difficult to keep the story within the word count. The plot swells and swells until I discover I'm writing a novel!

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    1. I do agree with that, as well. I could easily turn my short stories into novels...and some of them I plan to. :)

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  5. My grandmother always told me to write short stories, but I find it so difficult to keep the story within the word count. The plot swells and swells until I discover I'm writing a novel!

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  6. My grandmother always told me to write short stories, but I find it so difficult to keep the story within the word count. The plot swells and swells until I discover I'm writing a novel!

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  7. Great post, Angela. I tried my hand recently at a short story for a contest (which, of course, as my crit partner, you know LOL). Golly, it was a challenge as I'm used to writing novellas of 35,000 words. When I got to two thousand words I thought...what now? How am I going to stretch this to 6000 (the maximum allowed)? Then I got over the "what now" and had to slam my foot on the brakes at 6000. Still, it was great fun, and I was excited to find out this week that I'm a semi-finalist.

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    1. I was very excited to see you were a semi-finalist, as well! Your story is great and I look forward to seeing it in print! ;)

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  8. Great to see another Canuck here, Angela. What part of Alberta do you live in? Are you a member of InScribe or The Word Guild? I love writing short stories. Have a new one coming out soon in the 3rd Hot Apple Cider Anthology. Blessings, Marcia Laycock - vinemarcAT telus DOT net.

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    1. I'm in Calgary right now, but originally i'm from farther south. Congrats on the anthology! It's fun having collaborations with other authors :) I haven''t joined either of those groups yet, but I've been considering them.

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  9. Excellent post and congratulations! I need to try writing short for a change. Even when I aim short it ends up at least half as long again as I planned :)

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    1. Thanks! All you need to do is allot yourself less words ;)

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  10. Huge congrats, Angela! I find writing a short story very challenging. I'll throw my addy in with Marcia's :D sandraorchard(at)ymail(dot)come

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  11. Fabulous news and congratulations, Angela. I expect writing a short story really helps an author tighten their writing across all those aspects you mention above. It sure brings new meaning to making every word count.

    And great that proceeds from "Out of the Storm" go to the ACFW scholarship fund.

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    1. Yes, it does help with tightening, because every word definitely counts. Thanks for dropping by :)

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  12. Helpful observations: thank you. Have shared with the ACW (Association of Christian Writers) fb group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/24831838019/

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  13. Congratulations on being included in the anthology. I appreciate your hints on how to tackle writing a short story ourselves. I'd love to have a copy of the book. Marygalusha@ymail.com

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    1. You're welcome. Thanks for stopping by :)

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