Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Just write: 2013 Short Story Challenge

I’ll just go ahead and say it: the message that short stories are AH – mazing was not properly delivered in my fiction class.

KDW 2013 Request Permission for use
Not pointing fingers, BrockClarke, just saying.  

Last spring, while promoting his new novel, this Pulitzer Prize winner read a short story to a room full of literary fans at the Clemson Literary Festival. 

I went home and wrote the first one I’d written in years. It wasn’t any good, but it was written.

He’s a master. But don’t tell him I said that. We’re still in a fight


Sort it out

For many new writers, there appear to be two fiction camps: the novel writers and the short story writers. Typically short story writers marvel that the novel writers have that much to say. Then the novel writers can’t believe the short story writers even consider themselves writers.

FYI: Long doesn’t make it good. Long doesn’t even make it a novel.

Just because you can write 800 pages about it, doesn’t mean you should.

Novels are great and some stories need the time to open, stretch, unfold, arc, and resolve. But other stories can be accomplished with significantly less mileage.

Writing short stories is like running three miles, four miles, or five miles, on your half marathon training plan. They’re conditioning. They don’t all have to be literary magazine submission or story collection inclusion worthy. They can just be exercises.

Somebody remind me to do an essay challenge in 2014

KDW 2013 Request Permission for use
Short stories are a chance to practice the dynamics of a novel without committing nine months to a story that just won’t end.


I need the practice.

I have three things I need to learn how to do (cuz bloggers love lists): 

1. choose the right moment for the story,
2. embed enough information without killing the story with exposition, and
3. come to a satisfying conclusion.

This last piece is so people don’t say, “I want to read more.” There should be no more. That should be made perfectly clear when the story ends.


Here’s the challenge:

13 short stories in 2013

You can call it one-per-month with an extra if you want. I’ll probably pace myself that way. But the rule is a new short story counts toward the 13 but a revision of anything written before 2013 doesn’t.

(This rule is for me since I have four unfinished stories that need work.)

Can’t recycle ‘em. Gotta start fresh.


Who’s in?

I’ll post links to your stories on the monthly 2013 Short Story Challenge Check Up entry on my fiction blog

Send me a link to your story and I’ll add it. Or put your link in a comment below or on that blog.

If we're serious about getting better at something, we need a plan to study and practice that something. Someday I'll tell you how I learned football and became a better cook. 

What have you undertaken study of? Did you get better at it?

Here are some books I requested from the Richland County Public Library to start my short story study (another list!):

  • Homeland and Other Stories, Barbara Kingsolver
  • What We Won’t Do, Brock Clarke
  • Carrying the Torch, Brock Clarke
  • Rock Springs, Richard Ford
  • The Granta Book of the American Short Story, Richard Ford
  • The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012, edited by Dave Eggers


  1. Admirable challenge, Kasie.

    I'm not sure I could write one new story a month (are we talking 1000 words or 5000?!), but I need to write something new and get away from wading around in the unfinished work. FYI, for years, I wrote only short stories and didn't believe I *could* write a novel even if I wanted to. My husband (also a writer) was the one who pushed me to try writing a novel. He insisted that if I could write a decent short story, I could write longer. I had the material, he said. It was a remarkable thing to "go long" and see how a novel takes shape. So for me, the short and long forms are two sides of the same coin. I still love and write short fiction, but I also love the process of the novel. Writing short stories is a welcome break from the long haul of the novel, too.

    Good luck with the challenge. I can't promise 12 new stories, but I will certainly take it seriously and have a go.

    1. Awesome, Gerry! Glad to have you on board.

      I may be underestimating what it takes to draft out a short story.During NaNo I was putting down 2000 words per day so around 10k in a month didn't seem like that much.

      Anyway, let's try it. Just scratch them out word by word and worry about shape and substance later :-)

  2. I have a few ideas bobbing around. Like Gerry, I don't know if I can manage 13. I can put it down as a goal and see where things go ;)
    Right now, I'm aiming for a few anthologies.
    And short stories are good for novelists for a number of different reasons. They help us get (and stay) concise. They help us get a publishing credit. They help with craft. I'm not a novel vs. short story shipper. I think both forms have a place in every writer's life :) Then again, I write poetry too. So practise is practise! Words on the page mean fewer rattling around in the brain!

    1. Hi ya, Mel! Glad to see you!

      I agree that writers should write in all forms. I am an essayist, too. Albeit not a very good one ;-)

      Poetry hasn't ever been my thing, but I'm not ruling it out. There may be a place for me there eventually.

  3. Kasie, great challenge! I'm more in your camp of having prior stories I need to revise, but I'm intrigued to watch how you fare with the challenge in 2013. One thing about numbers and fiction -- it seems like the more new starts you write, the more freed you are to branch off and take chances. So it seems like pushing yourself to write lots of new starts would aim in that direction! It was good to stumble across your blog today.

    1. Glad to see you, Elissa.

      I agree on the "new starts." I also think starting with a bunch of possibilities can help you write the same story from a different angle. That may be a strategy, too. Write one story and then tell it from two other characters' POVs.

      Happy Writing! Send me your links :-)

  4. Great plan! I'd love to have 10-12 new stories written by the end of the year. I'll give it a go with you. ;)

    1. Yay! Becca's on board! YAY!

      Send me your links, girly, as you put up your stories. I've got one in the hopper, gonna go up next week :-)

    2. I'm got my first story done, but I don't like it well enough to show anyone yet, lol. And I'm pretty sick of looking at it. So, I'm gonna start on Number 2, and hopefully it will turn out better. ;)

  5. A decade ago, when I began blogging, I discovered I had a talent for Poetry, and rediscovered my talent at storytlling (Well, my cat actually inspired me to rediscover that when I got a computer a few years earlier, but that's another story).

    With the intent of learning more, and helping me become a better writer, I have bought quote a few books on poetry, writing, and writing prompts, since.

    How many have I read? Um, don't ask. :-D

    I have become real good on the poetry side (Never had the nerve, or knowledge, to submit any of it anywhere, though I've done Open Mics), and written a few short, short, short stories on my blogs, including something a bit longer that I've not touched in a while which, may or may not have the makings of just a short story, or something more complex, I don't know.


    1. Hi, Kiril. Thanks for stopping by Clemson Road.

      So are you in? Wanna try to write 13 short stories this year?

  6. Can't write short stories so I will enjoy the challenge vicariously, but your post has inspired me to choose something to study and get better at doing. When I retired,I began learning about various aspects of jewelry making and it was a lifesaver. I am at loose ends again and really hadn't examined what my problem was until I read your "question"...then it hit me like a ton of bricks. Don't know what I will undertake to do yet,but thanks for the boost!

    1. Always glad to inspire. I can't wait for HB to get into band and orchestra -- I want to learn violin! And language classes -- I want to learn French! So many "skills" to enjoy picking up. What a journey.


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