Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Cracking Under Pressure

Recently, the Chicago Contingent (our writing group) decided to jump on the anthology bandwagon and put out a compilation of our own. At first I was excited, thinking that it's a great way to promote our work and start getting our names out there. But now it's time to start writing...well last week it was time to start writing and although I have millions of novel ideas, I am struggling to find one that works as a short story.

But here's what's been bothering me: I have written plenty of short stories. I have written plenty of freelance articles, on assignment, on subjects I had no previous knowledge of. It would be reasonable to assume that a short story assignment would come as easy. Wrong. Every time I sit down to brainstorm or go to the computer and try to write a few scenes, it's like I get stage fright. I freeze under the pressure.

I'm coming to the conclusion that the problem has to do with order. When I'm writing fiction, I begin with characters, sometimes a scene or a concept. I start exploring and developing the world that I'm writing about and go from there. If the concept and plot don't seem to be enough for a novel length piece, I aim for a short story. As I said in previous posts, I write until the story is finished.

So now we've gone and mixed up the order. I've been assigned a word count and a theme and I have to go from there. It's like my creative brain doesn't understand, unable to function if the process isn't organic.

But I keep brainstorming and ideas are slowly coming. I never miss a deadline so this story will be completed no matter how many times I have to hit myself in the head with my laptop. But I'd love for some people to weigh in, especially novelists who have been asked to write short stories for anthologies. Is it harder to write shorter and for a specific market? How is the process different? Any pearls of wisdom would be greatly appreciated!

1 comment:

Marcus Sakey said...

Short stories are brutal. I got nothing for you. ;)