Posts Tagged ‘Short Story’

Are You Writing a Novel? Or Should it be a Short Story?

December 5, 2013

I love this writing advice from Elizabeth Sims in her recent Writer’s Digest article, “Miscalculations & Missteps.”

In both children’s and adult writing contests, I’ve read many short stories that try to become novels, and writing that someone identifies as a novel but it REALLY should be a short story. How to tell if your characters/theme/plot is suitable for which genre?

“Take two unrelated heart-clutching moments, or two unrelated story points, or even two unrelated characters, and challenge yourself to come up with a way to link them.”

Do you have enough complexity to hold a reader’s interest for a novel? This exercise will help you discover the layers or depth you need for a longer work of fiction.

Ever met a celebrity?

September 26, 2010

A friend of mine just got back from England where she met Prince Charles. 

Really. 

She and her husband were touring the gardens of Buckingham Palace and there was some show going on.  He was in the midst of  a crowd,  smack dab in front of them,  along with Camilla, where they chatted with my friends about mulching and plants and tulips and what-not. 

Although I’ve seen a few Hollywood actors on sets and in streets (their names escape me so unfortunately I can’t impress you with name-dropping here) I haven’t been stunned by anyone truly in the upper echelon of famous-ousity.   

Oh wait.  One name-drop.  Sorry.  I took my son to see Clinton before he was president so my son could shake his hand.  We were in a crowd of twenty so it was lovely indeed.  And he was personable and pleasant and of course I handed my camera to someone else to take pictures and never thought to ask for him to take a picture of the three of us . . .

But other than that, my life has been celebrity free.

What about yours?  Do you know a hairdresser’s son’s cousin who’s the brother of Lindsay Lohan?  Poor girl.  Sorry about the unfortunate choice.  I was trying to be contemporary and that’s all I could come up with at the moment. 

Writing Prompt:

1.  Write a personal narrative.  You can have dinner with anyone famous in history or the present time.  Who would you choose?  What do you ask?  What happens?  (My choice?  Dorothy Parker, Abigail Adams, everyone’s choice which is Eleanor Roosevelt and Dr. Seuss for starters . . .)

2.  Change your personal narrative into a poem.  Choose concrete images and metaphors.  Remember a poem isn’t just prose set in stanzas.

3.  Zap yourself into Hollywood.  Write a short story with you as a character.

Story Writing Tips

March 24, 2010

What makes a reader turn the page?  What makes an editor want to publish YOUR book?  What makes a judge choose YOUR story for a winner?

1.  Characters.   Make your reader care.  What does your character want more than anything else in the world?  What will happen if she/he doesn’t get it?  Through the story, raise the stakes. 

2.  Conflict.  What stands in your main character’s way from getting his/her want?  This creates . . .

3.  Suspense.    Read the MOST suspenseful scene you’ve ever read in a book.  Why does it work?  Because you CARE.  Because the main character has obstacles/problems that are dropped in his way.  They can be other characters, himself, nature . . .

4.  A satisfying ending.  Is it realistic?  Does it “feel” right when you read the story aloud?

Editing Your Short Story

March 10, 2010

With our California Young Writers Contest underway, many Contra Costa County middle school students are busy writing poems, short stories and personal narratives and essays.    

YES!  (Shouted with fist in the air.  <g>)

One question that comes up a lot is if a student can submit five pages of a story that goes on longer.   Can they end their story with “To Be Continued?”

No.  Why?  Because as a judge for this category, we would like to see if the student can write a beginning, middle and end within five pages.  

However, if the student has written a longer piece, this is great too!  It means this student has the stamina to write more!   There is an annual Scholastic Novel Contest for Kids  (this year’s contest is ending and next year’s guidelines aren’t up yet) that might be appropriate for this story.  So encourage the longer works too.  But just not for our contest.

Students can create a different short story for us, or edit their longer piece. 

How to edit? 

 “Pitch” the story in two sentences.  What is this story REALLY about?  What is the character’s goal?  Does she/he achieve it? 

It’s difficult, isn’t it?  After much thinking, the student can write down the brief “pitch” of what the story is about.

Next, the student goes through the story, paragraph by paragraph.  Does each scene relate to the pitch?  Does every sentence  show character and plot?  Is any of it unnecessary?  Can any of it be cut?

Sometimes we writers like to create dialogue that doesn’t go anywhere.  If it doesn’t have tension, show conflict, or move the story on, we can remove it.  Sometimes we writers tell too much.  Too much narration bogs down a story. 

With the help of computers, editing/revising can become addictive!  Trust adult writers.  Many of us have trouble letting our stories out into the world, and we revise so much other writers must tell us to stop!

But often, young writers find it difficult to cut anything in their drafts and only think a second draft is for correcting spelling and punctuation.  Wrong. 

The second draft is where the fun begins!   This is where we can add scenes or take them away.  Add details and senses.  Add thoughts and reactions of your main character. 

Then the writer reads the story out loud with a pencil in hand.  Does it flow right?   The ear will hear it. 

The first time it might be hard, but then it gets to be so much fun you can’t stop.  Next thing you know, you’ve finished your story and you’ve discovered you really like writing after all. 

We can’t wait to read the entries.  Keep writing!  And remember, you can send multiple entries in multiple categories, in the same envelope or at different times.  Just make sure the post mark makes the deadline. 

And follow the guidelines.  Good luck!

Join our free Writing Workshop! Enter our Free Contest!

January 13, 2010

If you are a middle school student in Contra Costa County, you should join author Sarah Wilson and me on January 30 or February 6 for a free writing workshop through our libraries.  The registration form is on an earlier post below, or at right.

Why should you donate a morning to come to your local library?

We’ll show you how writing can be fun.  (Really!)  We play a writing game, talk about the best secret tips we know, and give you the “inside low-down” on the publishing business. We’ll do some writing, sharing, (ONLY if you want to . . . we never force people to share) and then it’s time for your questions. 

Many of the local English teachers offer extra credit if you attend.  Go ahead – – ask your English teacher.  We’ll be happy to sign anything you need for proof.

 Do you have a question about getting published?  How to write so your reader won’t be able to put your story down?  Want to know what it’s really like to be a children’s author?  (no, we don’t ride in a limo . . .)  We’ll give you techniques, guidance, and help you along your way.  You’ll  meet other writers your age, get a chance to win a free book in our raffle, and learn more about our California Writers Club Young Writers contest.  (guidelines also at right)

California Young Writers Contest Guidelines Posted NOW!

September 11, 2009

http://mtdiablowriters.org/youngWriters.html

2010 The school year is just beginning. Get started with your fabulous ideas for short stories, poems, and personal narratives for this year’s writing contest for 6,7, and 8 grade students in Contra Costa County! See the above link for specifics.

Questions?
Ask me here.
Tips can be found on that web site or to the right.