Last week I sat with a friend drinking coffee and discussing our different writing styles. He began by writing short stories then eventually progressed to full length novels. Once he had completed his first full novel he found there was much more ahead for the characters and the book instead became a four book series. Now all he writes are series with a few short stories in between. He assumed everyone followed this same pattern of short to long and once they got to long they discovered the books are so much more.
I was the opposite to a point. Yes I wrote poetry (bad poetry I admit) when I was in elementary school and a few attempts through junior high and high school. I wrote a couple essay length stories during that same era but for the most part I have always been a full length writer. Nanowrimo gave me the challenge I needed in order to get going and I haven't looked back. It wasn't until this year that, as an adult, I had anything to do with short stories.
I entered the NYC Midnight Short Story Contest, something I am hoping to do again in the coming years. It was difficult on so many levels I almost gave up immediately. The way it works is everyone that registers is put into a group. That group is assigned a genre, character and theme. Mine was a Stay At Home Mom, A Wrong Number, and Thriller. Once you have your assignment you have eight days to write, edit and polish, then submit it for consideration against the rest of your group. The top three move on to the next round where they will get new assignments and only three days to complete it. Each round the allotted words gets smaller as well.
Everyone that submits will get feedback, regardless of moving forward. I was attending a conference the first half of the competition. I had never written a thriller before so I was out my element right away. I managed to submit but it was right at the wire. I knew I wouldn't move forward from the moment I hit send and I was correct. I did, however, read through the feedback which was overall more positive than negative. The most difficult part for me was the word count. I kept seeing ways to expand, go further into detail, and inject description. I couldn't without going over the 2500 words though. As I wrote, then edited, then rewrote again I found the wording to be the challenge I had thought genre would have been.
I am still extremely wordy (as I am sure this post shows) but I am hoping to take part in more of the short story contests to try and expand my abilities. Being concise in writing is an art. I used to think it just meant people didn't know what to say or that they didn't believe in themselves enough to write a longer book. They are actually people with a stronger writing ability than I possess. To take someone on a journey in such a short about of time is incredible. Perhaps once day I will post one of my shorts here so you all can read what I am learning to achieve.