Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Short v. Long (or Quickies v. Lingering Eyes)

Tip of the Day: Make sure at least one book you're reading is a manageable sized paperback for easy reading while on the exercise bike/treadmill.

After months of writing and revising novels, I decided in March I'd focus on reworking some short stories. Over the past couple years, I've drafted pieces for children's magazines and either stopped subbing them after one rejection, or put them aside to focus on novels. I've never had a mag story published, but I'm still motivated to keep trying.

I have to say, it's a welcome break! The different pace of the stories, and the feeling that the end of the piece is always in sight are good things to dabble in once in a while.

So what differences have I noticed so far in writing short stories for mags as compared to novels -- things I definitely need to keep in mind while I play around with my writing in March -- that I can share?

1. Short stories need to jump right into the conflict. While the same is said for novels, it is also said that novels can start too soon, like before the reader has any empathy for the MC. But in a short story with a very limited word count, the conflict needs to happen almost immediately.

2. Short stories need voice. Yes, this is also needed in novels, but the voice of the narrative and voice of the MC both need to be super strong from the first word. There are less words allowed to build characters, so a lot of the characterization must come from the voice.

3. Short stories need every word to matter. In a novel, a few extraneous sentences here or there can get buried in the large number of pages. In a short story, each word that doesn't matter will stick out and make the reader ask why it was there. Or precious words that could be better spent on areas that do need developement for the short story are wasted elsewhere.

What tips do you have for writing short stories for children's magazines?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing


amuse me said...

I like the reminder in #1 about empathy for the main character. Good to think on a bit.

Kate Fall said...

Hmm, would you agree with this? In short stories, the main character has one problem to resolve. I'm having a hard time thinking of stories that break that rule.

Emily Marshall said...

I should really try a few short stories (or even picture books). I think I'd like working on a smaller scale for a few things. I just need to come up with some ideas. But I like the idea of doing it, especially to have more things going on at one time and for more instant gratification.

And Kate, I don't read alot of short stories, but that sounds reasonable to me. Good point.

Kristina Springer said...

Sounds like a great idea to get established writing short stories. Then when your book IS out you'll have an audience that already likes you.

DeenaML said...

Kate -- yes! You're right! One real problem to solve. I'll keep an eye out for any brilliant stories that do more than one!

Christina Farley said...

I haven't subbed to magazines in soooo long. But I did for about a year to get some writing credits and extra cash.

The trick for me was to get the themes printed out and I hung them up on the wall. That way I was always thinking of stories or articles that could fit into that theme of what they were looking for. I got alot of acceptances after I started doing that.