I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time on short stories the past couple years. I just counted, and I’ve worked on twelve this year (some of which were begun before then, and some of which are going nowhere). Sometimes I wish I’d started writing with short stories instead of novels. The learning curve feels faster, since I can actually finish a piece quickly and work on things without getting mired in the plot. I can experiment with different genres, characters, and settings more frequently. I don’t even mind revising them (much), unlike novels.
(Of course I couldn’t have started with stories, because back then I read mostly novels, didn’t like short stories much, and all my ideas were for novels. So starting with short stories would have meant forcing myself to write boring things that I’m sure would have been met with “This sounds like chapter one of a novel”.)
The best thing about short stories? They’re a nice break from the long slog through a novel.
I don’t mind admitting that as a writer I hate coming up with names. Hate it. Hate.
Almost as much as I hate coming up with titles, but that’s a whole other blog post.
It’s been particularly hard figuring out how I want to handle names in my YA steampunk book. There were several I knew I wanted to use, but I came up with others at random in the rough draft, and someday soon I’ll have to finalize which ones I want to keep and which ones I need to change.
I’m dealing with a secondary world with humans and fantasy races but heavily influenced by our world and its technology and cultures, so I would like to use a combination of fantasy names and common real world names, which you would think would make things easier because it sounds like the sky’s the limit, right? Except that I want a good balance and some kind of pattern that makes sense in the context of the world.
I’m also interested in names that associate with characters’ professions. One of my secondary characters, Gee, is a shortened form of green-eye, which is his nickname and a reflection not just of the character’s eye color but his role on the railroad. “Green eye” is railroad slang indicating the way is clear. Probably no one would ever notice that detail, but it delights me no end. Okay, maybe I like playing the naming game a little bit. Except it also means I have to give in to the cliché of my male hero having piercing green eyes. Hmm…
A story of mine is up right now at the Intergalactic Medicine Show. It’s called Riding the Signal, and I like the editor’s blurb about it so much I’m just going to shamelessly rip it off here–
When a secret group of high-tech mercenaries get attacked with a variant of their own long-distance animal-robot devices, their only chance of survival rides on two things they’ve never had to do before: work together, and get their own hands dirty.
I wrote this one a while ago, and have been tinkering with it since, mostly reworking the ending and tightening it up. One of the last passes was through this group, so thanks for the crits, guys.
Now I can stop worrying about trying to sell this one, and can start obsessing over its reviews.
As evidenced by Elizabeth’s last post, she and I have processes on the opposite ends of the spectrum. She is quite linear in her thinking; I’m, well, not as much. She likes structure and order and (for the love of God) outlines. I’ve tried outlining; I can make one without a problem, but using it is something else entirely. Elizabeth uses Scrivner and all its many tools to help keep details straight. My method of organization is twenty post-it notes stuck inside a notebook filled with notes. We’ve laughed about our differences a lot over the past few years.
So who’s right?
Both. Or neither. Take your pick.
Here’s the thing. The creative process is different for everyone. Some outline the heck out of a novel and make detailed character sheets before ever typing “Chapter One.” Some say, “huh. I have this idea. Let’s see what happens when I write it down,” and off they go. Some do a combination of the two. Some write 1K a day every day without fail; others do binge-writing weekends. Some make a dozen drafts; others do two or three. It doesn’t matter. You know what does? Writing. Finishing what you write. Submitting what you’ve written. Starting over. The best advice I could give any writer is this: figure out what your process is, and once you’ve found it, respect it. Plan for it, work with it, adjust for it. Don’t listen to anyone else. Respect your process.
Well, okay. Maybe there is one way to write: the way that lets you finish.