It depends on what stage I am at. Before I start a project, whether it’s a novel or a short story, I plan it out. I think of the characters and their main story as well as the backstory.
This could take weeks or months with a novel, especially because I never start a novel now without reading at least 5 or 6 novels that I think might be similar.
With a story it could take an hour or so, and then I start writing. I like to get up before 6 when the house is quiet, and I work all the time I can. The re-write is my favorite part and its much easier to get up at 5 when I am there, because I have something to work with.
What’s the challenges of writing a collection of short stories?
For a collection, there needs to be a common thread linking all the stories together, so not every story might fit the collection.
For Were We Awake, the publisher didn’t think one story fit. It was a story about alcoholism and family dynamics, but Marc believed it was too normal and boring for a collection with ghosts, clowns, exotic birds and murders. So, I wrote a different story, and he was right. The collection was better for it.
What’s your favorite word and why?
I laughed when I read this, such a hard question. I like the word ‘pernicious’, though I can’t say I have a favorite word.
How do you approach the planning process when writing a book made up of short stories? What advice do you have for someone who would like to put together a short story collection?
For any planning, reading is a huge component. Read as much as you can, learn from the writers out there. And think about what you want to write about, who the characters are, what the setting is, and why you are writing about this particular person and place. Have a plan before the first words hit the page. Otherwise you may be brought in directions that don’t suit your story. That’s okay if you have time and want to experiment, and it’s a good way to find your voice. I started that way, writing as much as I could, but never sure where the story would lead and it’s like being on a wild horse, without the reins. Eventually, if you want to go anywhere, you need to be in control.
I think both are equally important. A good story will keep the reader’s interest, but only if they feel for the character. If they don’t like the character, there’s no investment. My ideas mostly come with the story, and then I think of the character that fits the story, but it’s not always the case.
The crippled aunt in ‘Hidden’ came to me when I was writing another story in the collection. I soon realized she needed a story all to herself. The same with ‘Hinterland’ forthcoming with Fomite 2020, when Kathleen came into the story, she turned it upside down. It took eight years to write that, on and off, because I needed to get the story right.
What’s your editing process like?
I have some very trusted readers that I send everything to in the first instance, not for line edits etc, but to see if the story works. Then I sit on it for a while and look back and edit and re-shape.
Any advice for someone who is thinking of writing?
Stop thinking about it, just do it. Carve out an hour during the day to start with and sit by your computer or with your pen and paper and use that time. If nothing comes, still have that time as your writing time. Eventually you’ll be running to start. And read, read, read.
L.M Brown is the author of the novel Debris, and the linked short story collections Treading the Uneven Road and Were We Awake.
Her novel Hinterland is forthcoming 2020. She has a master’s in creative writing from Emerson college.
She grew up in Sligo, Ireland, but now resides in Massachusetts with her husband and three daughters, dog and bearded dragon.
In each story, events make the characters understand that their world is not as it seemed.
In Hidden, the discovery of an affair between her father and aunt is only the start of finding hidden secrets for Hazel.
What It Means to Be Empty-Handed is narrated by a fourteen–year-old daughter of an alcoholic. Her denial and elaborate imagination starts to disintegrate when she lies to the wrong person.
In Communion, a seven-year old boy believes the mourners arriving at his best friend’s house next door are attending a party and he wants to go