Charity and I would like to welcome Margo Benson as a part of our series to promote our HONE YOUR SKILLS Blogfest. Margo's here to talk about how short fiction has helped her in her own development as a writer.
Thank you so much, Charity and Rosie for inviting me to guest post about short story writing on your blogs, I’m delighted to be here.
I love reading short stories and I love writing short stories! I always have a book of them alongside anything else I’m reading. They don’t have to be read in any particular order and can often be consumed in one sitting. I find I can dip my toes into otherwise ignored genres without the commitment to a longer book. I have two on the go at the moment, one insect related horror, the other, stories of modern China.
I haven’t been a serious writer for very long and wasn’t sure whether I should (or could) distract my mind from the full-length novel currently in progress. I found I couldn’t resist, though! I find short story and flash fiction writing cathartic, experimental and fascinating. My main genre is romance but writing these smaller pieces has unearthed several other ‘voices’ from within. My flash fiction includes poignant moments and dialogue, which have come from observations that wouldn’t find a home in my romance writing.
I hadn’t long started my novel when another character popped into my head demanding attention. This one had paranormal aspects – no place for her in my countryside romp! Her voice, along with her
world and her liking for cooking has become The Sybil Chronicles, short stories, each culminating in a recipe which, I hope, will form a collection of it’s own one day.
At first I felt guilty abandoning my gorgeous hero and heroine with their anxieties to go and have fun over in Sibyl’s world, but it was no good sitting there with my mind in two places. Once I released Sybil, all kinds of new wonders emerged from my writing, all for the better. I know this won’t suit everyone but my writing has become fuller since giving myself permission to go off and explore shorter projects.
What I love about the short story is sparse prose. One of my very early pieces was for a blogfest and was limited to 700 words. I found the discipline so good for my style and vocabulary. A limited word count in which to convey a whole tale is a fun exercise and can often be the taster for something bigger in the future.
I also take part in a weekly Haiku/Senryu challenge. Creating an atmosphere in 17 syllables is another wonder in my writing life. Sparse writing indeed!
I’m a member of a three-piece band and we have started to write our own material. One band member had written a verse, bridge and chorus of a potentially beautiful song and thrust the words toward me saying, ‘Go on, you write the rest!’ I’ve never written a song before but I called upon my Haiku experience, picked appropriate words for the story, fitted them to the rhythm (I had to make rhyming couplets too!) and was happy with the tale I had to tell in short verse and definite syllables.
Blogfests and challenges do take up time in a writer’s life but I have found such experiences in flash fiction and short story writing to be as important and useful as writer’s workshops and conferences. The short story can propel an idea, which had no outlet otherwise, ‘out there’ and give the writer free rein for exploration.
Until a few days ago I wouldn’t have thought I was capable, let alone eager, to write horror. I dropped some beads on the landing at the top of the stairs and one looked slightly different from the rest…..hmm….I’m thinking a flash story of something nasty lurking in the bead box……..
Ack! I'm already frightened :) Something in the bead box, and then you dip your hand inside... *shivers*
Thank you so much to Margo for her great words. Think she's got a point? There's still time to sign up for the HONE YOUR SKILLS Blogfest. One short story of 750 words (no more than 1000), and help from your fellow bloggers to HONE it to its best shape. It will help you develop your skills as well as bring thoughtful feedback so you can feel confident enough to send it for publication (if you want, of course).
What alternative ways do you try to hone your writing skills? Poetry? Haiku? Song lyrics?