Re: Blue Sky
- From: "Patricia C. Wrede" <pwrede6492@xxxxxxx>
- Date: Sat, 18 Feb 2006 11:55:21 -0600
"Nicola Browne" <nicky.matthews@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote in message
"Bill Swears" <wswears@xxxxxxx> wrote in message
I don't know if that would necessarily work. I've never gone theAnother approach that might help. I wrote short stories for a while,until one sold. Got a lot of practice, and discovered techniques that
worked for me. They helped me find my voice as a writer. You might
consider something like that for a while; to get your balance, as it
were, before pushing on with the magnum opus.
short story route and many novelists haven't, to some extent shorts
require a whole different set of skills and a different narrative
What you said.
I have this theory, which is mine... Ahem. Anyway, I have this theory that
there are basically three kinds of writers. There are writers who are
natural short-story writers; their ideas are short-story ideas, for the most
part, and they're frequently successful at breaking in in the short story
market. On the other end of the scale, there are writers who are natural
novelists; their ideas are novel ideas, and if they try to write short
stories, the short stories come out sounding like outlines for novels (or,
occasionally, like a chapter of a novel). And in the middle are the writers
who are ambidextrous; who can write short or long with equal facility right
from the start (fortunately, there are very few of them, as we do not like
them much because they make the rest of us look bad).
If somebody is a natural novelist, convincing them to write short stories
first is likely to be a waste of their time (unless they view the shorts in
the same light as writing exercises, in which case they might be better off
*doing* writing exercises, but that's a whole 'nother rant). I wasted
*years* trying to write short stories, which were all unsellable (and remain
so -- this is not a matter of stuff that was marginal, and that I can unload
now that I have a track record. They're *bad*). My first novel sold, and
every novel since then has sold (so far, knock wood). I didn't manage to
write a short story that would sell until I'd finished five novels. I'm a
natural novelist, and I had to learn my craft by writing novels, and then
apply it to short stories (which, for me, were the hard part).
OTOH, I have a couple of good friends who are natural short story writers.
Both of them started selling short stories very quickly, and sold lots of
them (and in won case, won awards) before turning to novels. Both of them
had a *horrible* time writing their first novels; one actually wrote three
entire fat novels -- not drafts, completely different novels -- before she
got the hang of the differences in structure and complexity and pacing and
so on, and produced something saleable.
The best way to learn to write, IMNSHO, is to start with whatever comes
naturally. If that's short stories, by all means write short stories...but
if it's novels, then the writer is probably going to be best off writing
novels. It's hard enough to learn your craft while you're doing something
you have some natural inclination for, without making things even harder by
starting with whatever is the absolute most difficult thing for you to do.
I think knowing where a story starts is an interesting one.
My first novel began life as a slightly different book. I showed the
first few chapters to an agent who thought the real story started
at exactly the place my first few chapters ended. She was right,
but those discarded chapters, got me thinking like a novelist.
For me, it was just a matter of getting frustrated. See, I had this idea
for a novel, and it was really obvious that it couldn't possibly be anything
*but* a novel; it wasn't amenable to being cut down to short-story size.
And I kept putting off starting it, because I thought you were "supposed" to
write short stories first, until I finally got so frustrated that I said "To
heck with this; I'm going to write it *anyway*." And then when I finally
finished it, I thought, "Gee, that wasn't nearly as hard as everybody said.
I could do that again." So I did.
I think my advice fwiw would be to plough on and then get the axe out
(I don't know why I think that because it isn't what I do.
It isn't usually what I do, either, but I've had enough friends need to hack
off their first few chapters that I'm familiar with the phenomenon.
The reverse one is also interesting -- one guy I know says that if he were
writing "Jack and the Beanstalk," he'd start writing with "So Jack sneaks
into the giant's castle in the clouds..." and then have to back up to "So
Jack climbed the huge beanstalk to get to the giant's castle in the clouds,
and snuck..." and *then* have to back up through planting the magic beans,
swapping the cow for the magic beans, etc. until he finally arrived at the
actual beginning of the story. That doesn't seem to be quite as common as
the starting-too-early problem, though.
Patricia C. Wrede
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