Short stories. The place where I first started writing fiction. The place where a lot of writers start with their fiction. Not all writers by any means. Writing short fiction is a different game to writing novel length and some writers don’t like to go for both either because they’re not designed for the short tale or because writing is a job, after all, and there isn’t a hell of a lot of money in short fiction unless your surname is King and you live in Maine.
I love short stories. I love reading them, being part of that world for a few minutes or an hour, and coming out the other side. I love writing them, too…although that’s gone through a change over the last year or so. I produce most of mine after I finish the first draft of a book or while I’m on the laugh a minute game that is submissions and queries. Unless I have an idea that just can’t wait, I like to focus on one book at a time, one story at a time. So that’s why I leave my short stories for that month between draft one and beginning the edits of any particular book. Last week, I researched various agents and publishers with the idea of starting a new story over the weekend. I have a folder of jotted down notes and ideas that I refer to every now and again. Taking a break from the agent hunt, I opened it to see what horrible story ideas were waiting for me.
I’ve used the ideas that were worth anything and binned the ones that were crap which left me with a ghost town of noted ideas. Tumbleweeds blew past; the saloon doors creaked mournfully in the wind; a riderless horse drank from a trough before moving on…you get the idea. The strange thing is this wasn’t the problem it could have been. I’ve been thinking lately that it’s been a while since a story idea really grabbed me. I’ve written stuff I’m happy with but it’s been a few months since I really loved an idea. So on Saturday, I sat down and forced out the ideas. I’m not a big fan of talking about a writer’s muse or inspiration. It always suggests to me a writer sitting about, waiting for an idea to come while they stroke their beard. Sometimes, you have to look for the ideas. Sometimes (and this might be a strange idea to some), you have to put the work in. So I did. I went looking for ideas of stories that will impress me and make me love short fiction again. I bashed out the plots to a few ideas I like and have let them stew over the weekend. Tomorrow night, I start cooking the first one.
Anyone else hungry?