Recently, I felt something was missing from my writing. I could not “tighten” my stories, eliminate the superfluous details, or make a rapid point. My chapters went on and on. It took forever to reach a happy ever after. Even my characters grew tired of the journey and were screaming at me to “hurry up, already”.
A friend suggested I might experiment with going back to the basics and write a few short stories...maybe even some flash fiction. I took her advice and had an awakening experience. I now have several short speculative fiction stories published plus two flash fictions accepted to appear at the end of the year. Thank you to Jessy Marie Roberts at Pill Hill Press and Jessica from Wicked East Press for all their assistance with those.
On the strength of my personal achievements and renewed enthusiasm for writing, I talked with other authors who were also suffering “burn out” from writing full-length novels. Our collective interest in trying shorts, novelettes, and novellas grew into a small press for anthologies called Victory Tales Press. The Victory is in mastering the shorter story and taking our writing back under control and the tales are the stories themselves...mini-masterpieces to enchant and intrigue our readers. Together, we are learning to write and publish romance shorts and novellas in varied sub-genres.
Here are five of the main tips I used for returning to the basics. I hope they will help and inspire you to grab pen and paper (or keyboard) and write your own short or novella.
Cut the boring parts. Consider the story from the reader’s perspective. What will they want to know? If you can leave it out and it doesn’t change the story, dump it. What you include should be interesting, necessary, or both.
Avoid extra words. In a short there isn’t room for long descriptions or flowing passages. Every very, really, or actually and deep, brown, and wide adds to your word count, but does it advance the story? I laugh whenever I read this quote, but I find it appropriate to this topic: “Substitute 'damn' every time you’re inclined to write 'very;' your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” ~ Mark Twain
Keep the story simple. It is indeed difficult to write a short story if you have a convoluted plot, a dozen characters, and multiple settings. Choose one subject or theme to build your plot, a simple setting readers can relate to, stick with a limited and necessary number of characters, and one main protagonist if applicable. The K-I-S-S rule works wonderfully here. Keep It Simple, Sweetie!
Write what you know (or what you are willing to research well). This is especially important in a short. Concise facts and pertinent information are essential to a short or a novella. A lack of knowledge or lack of research will show much faster and quickly turn off your reader. Don’t give in to the notion that because it’s a short you can short-cut on validity or integrity of the story. Your readers will know.
Be unique and unpredictable. Avoid writing the same story over and over with name and setting changes. Try something new, take your characters to an exotic setting, or take them to an average setting and have something exciting and dangerous happen to them. If you normally write sweet, be more adventurous – add some spice. If you write spicy, attempt a sensual or sweeter story. Test your limits and abilities. And while we in the romance genre must have that happy ever after, we can achieve it in unexpected ways. Be daring. After all, it’s a short...much easier to rewrite than an epic novel if you don’t like the results.
[Research included information from the following sites:
Once you’ve written your novella, be prepared for a deep sense of satisfaction. The sense of accomplishment and the completion of a manuscript in less time can be addictive. In addition, I’ve found the skills needed for writing shorts seriously helped my longer works. My writing is tighter and my characters more in-depth. I am better at recognizing the “fluff” and staying on topic.
Check out the short stories, novelettes, novellas, and authors in the anthologies from Victory Tales Press:
or visit and join our forum: http://victorytalespress.lefora.com
Buy Links for our anthologies include:
Barnes & Noble
Our two-book, Halloween Collection featuring ten talented authors will be released October 1.
Four Christmas Collections featuring twenty fantastic authors will be coming in mid-November.
Please watch for them and support us in our efforts.
Thank you for dropping in and I hope I’ve given you food for thought and some tips to help your short/novella writing.
Rebecca J. Vickery