07-14-18 Cassandra O’Leary

Saturday, March 29, 2014

How Not To Write A Short Story

by Wendy Clark

Thank you for joining me! Today I celebrate the half-year anniversary of my short story debut, “Fatty Patty.” It’s about a now thin girl who returns to her five-year high school reunion to get revenge on the classmates who tortured her and on the boy who broke her heart. As the first in my soon-to-be released anthology of San Juan Island Stories, it’s currently free on Amazon, BN, Google Play, and Smashwords. Check it out!

I used to think I couldn’t write short. Like the 7-minute mile and two-finger whistle, short stories were utterly beyond me. They belonged to Mark Twain, Eudora Welty, and other masters filling my English syllabi. I couldn’t make anyone laugh or sigh in a few sentences no matter how desperately I tried.

Every time I penned a simple boy-meets-girl story, the girl morphed into a supermodel astrophysicist and the boy revealed himself as a time-traveler out to steal her results , and to save the future from Nazis, they decided to start a rock band…wait, what happened to my simple sweet romance?

About that time I realized my true problem.

It wasn’t that I couldn’t write a short story.

It turns out I couldn’t write a novel either.

After abandoning several epics that would make Gilgamesh nervous about his word count, I started examining the short stories I loved. One of my favorite manga (Japanese comics) begins with a man gazing on his sleeping love as he murmurs, “My relationship…I’ve decided to end it today.”

The entire story – how they met, how they misunderstood, how they persevered anyway, how they overcame the misunderstanding – is told in a mere 30 pages, most of it long image shots of Tokyo, and with a minimum of dialogue. It’s gorgeous, compelling, and most importantly, it has a happy ending I can believe in.

Thanks to studying this and other examples, I became hooked on retelling short romantic stories. Because the most painful experience of first love I can remember is high school, I gave my characters their second chances during a high school reunion.

At about the same time I righted my writing wrongs, two monumental events shifted my life:

After 12 years of planning, my boyfriend convinced me to stop putting off my travel dreams and scheduled a fantastic trip to the gorgeous San Juan Islands. We kayaked, spotted bald eagles, explored hand-crafted pottery, savored pine rum chocolates, and slept in a cabin made from the shell of an old boat. This became the setting for my San Juan Island Stories.

Second, I ran my first race. I ran less than five miles and finished in six thousandth place (#6190 actually). A few months later, after the release of my third short story, I ran over six miles and finished twenty percent faster. I’m not at a 7-minute mile. (Yet.) But I thought I couldn’t write a short story, either.

Maybe it’s time to practice my two-finger whistle.

How about you? What impossible task amazed you when you finally conquered it? Or what impossibility lies ahead, just waiting to be conquered?

Wendy Lynn Clark is an award-winning author of romance, young adult, and science fiction. Her San Juan Island Stories are light, sweet romances perfect for a Pacific Northwest summer day. Sign up for free stories and exclusive updates at http://www.wendylynnclark.com/.


Paty Jager said...

Fun post! It is amazing what we can talk ourselves out of or into. Congrats on the short story and the 7 minute mile.

The amazing task I muddled through was motherhood. I still can't believe I had three kids and they are all still alive and reasonably sane people. LOL

Judith Ashley said...

I'm amazed by many of the events happening in my life since I became a published author including my first book signing a week from today! When I look around me, I'm amazed at where I am in my life - no where near where I thought I'd be at this point.

With your determination, that 7 minute mile is closer than you think!

Wendy Lynn Clark said...

Thanks so much, Paty! It's amazing how powerful our mind sets are. Congrats on raising fine kids and writing wonderful westerns. :)

Wendy Lynn Clark said...

Thank you so much for hosting me, Judith! Congrats so much on your recent publication and book signing. I hope yours went well. My first one was terrifying!

Judith Ashley said...

I'll have Sarah Raplee beside me and a couple of Genre-istas (Kris Tualla and Terri Molina) plus I've a few friends in the area who have promised to be there -

Of course the dread is that no one will stop by our table - but with the friends committed to be there, that one won't be a problem.

Why was it so terrifying? Maybe you've thought of something I haven't - lol.

Debra Rieger said...

Go Wendy! Keep running, keep believing and keep writing!

Darlene Panzera said...

Hi Wendy! Great to see you here!
I had to laugh when you said run the 7 miles. I have started jogging, hoping to get in shape now that I've got the writing somewhat under control, but can't run very far yet. Just a few loops around the driveway. LOL! I also need to organize my house. Wishing you great success with your writing!

Sarah Raplee said...

I started writing free short stories for our sister blog, Free Reads from the Genre-istas & Friends (there's a link on the sidebar)and have loved the opportunity to explore various subgenres without investing the time to write a full-length novel. I like you idea of writing a series of short stories lilnked by an unusual and romantic setting. Awesome!