The Short Story Struggle

I’ve never been exceptionally good at short stories.

In many of my more creative writing classes, we were advised to get published on a minor scale—short stories, poetry, and such—before aiming for something like a novel. It’s a more mundane version of having 3-5 years of experience in a field when applying for a job. It looks good when you have professionally published work to bring up when heading into the next leg of your writing journey. I also want to be able to offer my readers some short fiction on my blog, at least for a time.

Outside of school assignments, I’ve just never been very good at writing short fiction. Anything I do manage to finish feels like part of a larger piece; a prologue, or a chapter from a book. I can come up with scenarios that seem simple, but they end up being rather long winded. Any time one of my peers brings a short story for us to workshop, I can’t wrap my head around how they can simmer down an entire plotline to less than 5000 words and actually have the plot come to a conclusive end.

I feel like I’ve only been successful in my attempt once.

So, why do I have so much trouble writing a short story? Maybe it’s my reader’s mindset. I’ve always read novels for fun. Short stories were strictly something I was forced to endure and painfully analyze in school. I didn’t start reading short stories in my off-time until recently, and even now I still gravitate towards novels.

Maybe the ‘short’ part of the short story is my problem. Part of the reason I prefer longer works in that I get engrossed in the story’s world and characters. It takes quite an impression to make me love a character I’m only going to be with for a few thousand words. I enjoy the long hours I can spend being lost in a novel. So, whenever I create an idea for a short story, I usually spend too long developing the characters, and then little aspects of their world become expanded upon until I’ve created a setting and cast for a whole novel (or two) but have no plot to go along with it.

It’s a habit I’m trying to learn to break, partially because I want to publish a few short pieces to get my name out, but also because I think it’s good to try writing things I’m not good at or comfortable with. The only way you learn to do something even somewhat good is to try, get critiqued, fall over in frustration, and then try again.

Until I can do it with no problems, I’ve got a few anthologies and some recommended writer’s self-help books to check out.

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