I need to write a short story. Months ago I committed to writing one short story a week, and sending out one short story a month to a contest or a magazine. I have so far written one short story (in my lifetime). I’m sure I have other stories that are short, but I have but once set out to write a short story and written one.
In fact, I always thought I hated short stories. They weren’t worth my time because they were either confusing or pointless and couldn’t I have just been reading a novel instead? A novel, that’s something beautiful. I don’t remember where I read this, but someone wrote something to the effect of “It’s not hard to write sentences, and books are made of sentences, so if you’re going to write a sentence, why not just write Moby Dick?” Of course, they said it better. I think I read it in a book. They were already writing that sentence as a part of a full-length book.
Then something happened (I guess I read a few short stories) and I got it. I understood why people wrote them. A short story is a moment. A novel is weeks.
(this is the library I’m about to mention –
taken from lynnvalleylife.com)
There is a quote on the glass wall of the library near where I do yoga: “A short story is what you see when you look out the window.” Okay. I look out windows. A short story is maybe the kind of thing you can write when all day long you are sitting in a class and all evening long you are doing homework from that class. It is the thing you can do in one of your breaks. Right?
I don’t know. I’ve only written one.
I often come up with plans such as the one I already mentioned: give myself a quota, some sort of routine. If a short story is a moment in time, it should take but a moment in time to write. So why don’t I start?
My biggest issue with short stories, and the reason why I still feel the tinge of distaste I used to have for them, is that they are based on a plot. A novel is based on a character. Anytime I try to come up with a plot for a short story, I feel as though I am a child who was asked to create a comic strip for class. This happened. Then this happened. This image then that one. It’s so dull. It sounds horrible to write. I can’t make myself do it.
So I think I need to change things up. I need to start with moments. I need to rifle quickly through journals and take eyes-half-open glances at things I’ve written in there – quotes I like from books, things I noticed that day, dreams – and turn those moments I catch into stories. I need to write from a moment, not a child’s plot.