I don’t do Marmite (it is the work of the devil) and I also don’t do short stories. Short stories are incredibly difficult to get right, whether you are writing them for magazines, for competitions or just for fun. They will almost always come with a word limitation (hence the short) and despite this huge restriction there is an expectation that there is a whole story wrapped up in the prose (hence the story).
My track record with stories has seen me fill a whole exercise book at school with one story much to the mixed reaction of my English teacher who was wonderfully encouraging but with a pile of other marking to do, my lengthy witterings were not always timely. My next attempt at a finished story was my novel ‘Acting on Impulse’, the first draft of which came in at one hundred and twenty-eight thousand words. So you can see my ability to be succinct has not improved over the years.
So when my writing tutor asks the class to write a Short Story I break out in a cold sweat (and curse the fact that I sit next to both the radiator and the draughty window), my mind goes a complete blank and I decide categorically that I can’t do it. I will then spend the whole week trying to think about a plot based on whatever criteria has been set and will almost always conclude that it’s impossible to fit any of my ideas into anything shorter than ‘War and Peace’ or ‘Ivanhoe’ at a push (approx. 587k and 192k word counts respectively, in case you were wondering).
As a complete contrast, on the weeks that she sets us an exercise that then has to trigger a piece of writing I find that the ideas flow and that I can produce something that I feel is of a standard that I can read out to my fellow classmates (we all take turns to read out our work, this isn’t me showing off you understand).
The bizarre thing is that when I have read out the result of an exercise my tutor will provide feedback along the lines of “nicely crafted short story” to which my obvious response is “but I don’t do short stories!”
If you would like to have a read of some very good short stories from my fellow writing class attendees please click here. You will also find some of my work which is the result of exercises not short stories. I’m now off to have some yeast extract on toast, I’m told it’s very good.
Bella has just finished her first novel, Acting on Impulse, which earned her a runner-up place for the New Talent Award at the 2013 Festival of Romance. Every fortnight, Bella will be sharing her experiences and advice as a new author. She also has her own blog which you can visit by clicking here.
Novel Kicks is a blog for story tellers and book lovers.
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