Success only flourishes in perseverance -- ceaseless, restless perseverance.
--Baron Manfred Von Richtofen

Friday, September 14, 2012

Writing Short Fiction Part V: The Don'ts!

Okay, so I think it's time for another little blog series, this time on writing short fiction. A subject dear to my heart. I have written dozens of short stories and spent seven years as an editor of short fiction. If short stories are something you're interested in writing, hopefully I'll have some useful information. Feel free to leave questions in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them!

Photo by Julien Tromeur
The Don'ts!

There are a few things that you ought to avoid when it comes to writing short fiction.

First and foremost, never, never ever begin with backstory or info-dumping. Nothing kills a short piece dead faster than a bunch of telling at the beginning.You have to impart the pertinent information in the midst of the action. Trust me. Your readers are smart. They will figure things out. But if you info-dump on them, they will put the story down and never look at it again.

Related to this is don't start the story before the story begins. Maybe you're not just info-dumping. Maybe you've written a lovely scene, but that scene doesn't really have anything to do with the plot. Maybe it's just a set-up scene. You don't need it. Trust me. Begin at the beginning--at the inciting incident--then run with it.

Don't use someone else's characters or world. At least if you want to publish the story. There are a lot of fan fiction sights where you can post your stories set in somebody else's world or using their characters, but don't offer them to the world at large. You'll run into copyright trouble and you don't want to go there! Besides, you have great stories all your own just waiting to come out!

And finally, don't worry about length while you are writing. I know I've talked a lot about keeping your short story, well, short. But when you are in the process of creating a story, don't worry about how long or short it is. Find the length that fits the story. Once you have a first draft out, you can look at it and see if something needs to be cut or added in. Writing a short story (or anything) ought to be a fun process. Don't hamper yourself by worrying about the length.

Any other don'ts you can think of?

If you're interested, check out Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV!


Randy said...

Good advice.

Jackee said...

Awesome advice! I have a really hard time not thinking about length while I write. Even when I want to just write a 50 page exploratory draft on a novel--it kind of still explodes out. :o) I'll have to work on that one. Thanks!

Jeff Hargett said...

Good advice indeed. I habitually break your last don't. Short stories for me are definitely on the shorter side--shorter than most of my novel chapters!

I'd like to link to this series from one of my Sunday Surfing posts. Do you have a set number of posts planned?

Carolyn V said...

Ugh! I hate info dumping!

Great advice Angie! I'm going to have to copy these all out so I can remember them. ;)

Angie said...

Thanks, everybody. I'm glad you found it helpful! Stay tuned for the last post today, and a contest!