|Photo by khteWisconsin on Flickr, Creative Commons License.|
But I also worry that I'll never finish writing anything. Partially because I get too many great beginning ideas... You know, that perfect first line that comes to you out of the blue and promises a long happy creative relationship, but is really just a first line and a couple of paragraphs? Yeah... I get a lot of those. My folder is FULL of them. But I also worry I'll never finish anything because finishing a story is just plain difficult.
That's why I started writing short stories.
Actually, I started by emulating one of my favorite authors in the market right now, Maggie Stiefvater. She wrote a blog post once about how important it is to get practice putting together a whole story. It's why she, Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff (Stiefvater's critique partners) had a long-running short story blog called The Merry Sisters of Fate. They took turn writing short stories and forcing themselves to churn out "completed" bits fiction in short amounts of time—once a month or more.
Stiefvater based the challenge on an art class she'd taken where she had to create a complete piece of art every day for I think it was a month. She said that the important part was going through the whole process as many times as possible. Beginning. Middle. End. Beginning, middle, end. Until you're so used to creating a story that you know just how one part goes on to the next.
I figured there had to be something to this. After all, did you notice that both of Stiefvater's critique partners are now multi-published authors themselves?
In the beginning of 2011, I decided with my own critique partner that we would start our own short story blog, Tales From the Hollow Tree, with the idea of stepping through a portal of sorts into a different world with each story. Since then I have written almost thirty short stories—a medium I can tell you first and foremost I have never been particularly comfortable with. I can't claim that my own contributions have been as worth reading as those of the Merry Fates, but they have taught me new things about writing, and if nothing else, they have allowed me to write in a way I never have been able to with my novels: no holds barred.
In a short story, if a shocking reveal wants to come out that I hadn't planned for, I just let it happen. If a character turns out to have been lying the entire story, I don't try to fight it. If I just don't know where I'm going from start to finish, I let the story take the lead. Somehow for me, knowing that the story is only going to be with me for a short time gives me the freedom to let it take the reins.
It's freeing. Exhilirating. And a little frightening.
I encourage you to try it.
What about you? Do you have any secrets to free writing?
graduated with a Literature degree from the College of Creative Studies at UC Santa Barbara. She has worked as a freelance writer and as an editor for Drollerie Press, and she is the co-founder of Type Set, Inc, an editing and formatting service. She’s currently working on a YA fantasy novel, but in the meantime she publishes a new short story for free every other Friday at Tales From the Hollow Tree, a fiction blog she shares with author Isabelle Santiago.