How different is writing a short story?

When starting a writing project I never really have a mind-set that this must be 80,000 words plus or any size really.  Like most, I just work until it is done then edit up or down as required, usually down, just to keep the pace up and the pages turning.

However, writing short stories was a real eye opener.  In the past I had written business books which were simple enough.  A fantasy novel was my first work of fiction and like most fantasy books it turned into a bit of a monster.  Then, I refined my skills greatly and wrote The Plague Doctor.  Even then this started out at 126,000 words worth of grime and crime before finishing it at around 86,000, with a ton of backstory removed.  The result was a fast paced book that everyone was pleased with.

Like most writers I’m working on sequels and other projects but my publisher suggested I produce some free short stories, simply so people can check out my writing style before they buy.  I remember a novel I tried to start some years ago that would break down into the perfect set of stories.  As a result The Squad B Archives were born.

A new found respect for short story writers.

A new found respect for short story writers.

What was different?

I have to say, hand on heart, writing a short story I found fairly easy in the end BUT to begin with it was a real struggle.  You have to make a fully rounded tale in such a shorter period of time.  To start with I was at a blank, wanting to over tell things, I would write scenes that simply I didn’t have the room in the story to keep, it was a bit of a conundrum really.  I wanted to keep this story at around 3,000 words and I remember thinking, how hard can it be?

Well, a lot harder than I thought.  As I typed away I could see the word count growing and growing but eventually I scraped in at around my target.  Entire parts were chopped as they weren’t critical and it is good practice to get your merciless streak going.  No time for sentiment or delay, you just edit your own work like a surgeon.

The story isn’t a story said the wife!

As is often the case my wife got the first read and when she checked over Interview Room 9, she said she liked it but it didn’t seem like a…story.  She felt it was more like a scene in a longer book.

In my defence it was late at night she read it but I decided to go back to editing before I passed it onto the editors to prod and poke.

The next morning, I was confident I had nailed it and thankfully I had but it was a real learning curve.  How hard can a 3,000 word story be to write?  Well the first few times very and I have a new found admiration for the short story writers out there.  A different craft but a craft none the less.  If I am being honest they are actually darn good fun to do and are keeping me busy for a bit now.

You need, even more pace, a strong start, middle and end and above all else expect to chop out entire scenes (a lot!).  But it is very rewarding I have to say.

If you want to read Interview Room 9, for free it’s on Smashwords.  There are a couple of other samples of my work on this site also, just click here.  Thanks for tuning in and happy reading and writing.