You can hone your craft: A short story is the perfect place to practise and to hone your craft. We all have strengths and weaknesses as writers. Some writers excel at dialogue, but suck at setting and description or their plots rock, but their characters are flat and predictable. A short story offers us the opportunity to improve our weaknesses and have fun with our strengths.
There is less pressure: When we write novels, we need to keep our wits about us. We need 60 coherent scenes, in the correct order that shows us the story. With a short story there is less pressure.
Your prompts can be published: Every writer needs to practise and a daily prompt is great, but when you turn that prompt into a short story you have something to enter, publish or stick up on the fridge. Prompts tend to remain in our notebooks; short stories become something you can use. Don’t stop with the prompts though. They help you find ideas.
They give you a break: Writing a novel is as challenging as it is thrilling. There are times when the words flow and the story works, then there are times when they don’t. That is when you write a short story.
The reduced word count makes you work hard: Novels have space, short stories don’t. If you over write, this is a great way to shorten and strengthen your writing. When you must count, and evaluate each word, it changes the way you write.
They give you deadlines: There are hundreds, if not thousands of short story competitions. Use them to work towards your goals and deadlines.
They are good for setting short-term goals: When we write novels, they can take months or even years. Short stories offer an opportunity to set short-term goals to keep us motivated and invigorated for the long-term goal achievement.
You can deal with back-story: Writing short stories is a great way of getting to know your characters. Put them into a situation that you haven’t thought of before or that isn’t included in your book and see what they get up to. Or write that important event in their childhood that shaped them and changed their lives. You won’t necessarily use it, but it’s a great way to layer and explore character.
You can experiment: This is my favourite part about writing short stories. If you always write in third person, try first or even second person. If you have never written fantasy, give it a go. If a scene from your novel isn’t working, change characters and write it as a short story from another character’s point of view.
- They allow you to brainstorm: Use a short story to explore a theme or an alternative ending to your scene or story. Change viewpoint, gender or genre. There are no rules. The short story is a brilliant tool. Use it.
How it will work:
- I’ll be writing a series of posts about the craft of short story writing. These will be published once a week, on a Wednesday(mostly).
- On the second last Wednesday of every month I’ll post the next prompt and my short story. That gives you roughly four weeks to write your story.
- You will be welcome to share your story, as well as comment on each other’s stories.
- The word counts will vary every month, but more about that next week.
- The goal is to have 12 short stories at the end of the year and a seriously improved skill set.
Word count: 1500 words.
Deadline: 15 February 2017. Post your story as a comment on my short story post on that day.
by Mia Botha
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Writing Prompts For January 2017
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