Archive for the ‘short stories’ Category

NB: I’ll be reading an extract from the story I’m talking about in this blog post at The Midsummer Murder Mystery, this Sunday July 3rd at Cabaret Voltaire’s Speakeasy in Edinburgh. It begins at 8pm and is free entry. More information on the Facebook event page.


I spent the last three weeks behaving like a writer, more so than I ever have before.

After the kick up the bum that I needed from my tutor, I knuckled down and worked, worked, worked in the most functional way I’ve ever witnessed myself work.

At first, I had a character and a setting nestled at the back of my mind. Then I spent about four or five days researching around the subjects I thought were important to my germ of an idea, reading books and taking notes until ideas began to form. Slowly, I developed a list of five to ten scene ideas, pushing the story onwards.

I started to write, aiming for around 1000 words a day.

When I finished the first draft of each scene, I went back to the original scene summary idea and asked myself a few questions:

– How does this scene push the story forward?

– What does the reader discover through this scene?

– What questions are raised for the reader in this scene?

– Has this draft fulfilled the original aims from the summary?

Goodness, isn’t that functional?

As I continued writing, more scene ideas for further on in the piece emerged and I hurriedly wrote them down, until I had the bones of a  plot and a first draft which eventually reached the colossal heights of 14000 words. Goodness knows what that is: it’s not a short story and it’s certainly not a novella, but never mind.

Because I didn’t plan its structure meticulously before I started writing (and I’ve never written a piece of this length before), there are a few loose ends which need tying up, and one or two of the characters need to be given a firmer functionality in the plot as a whole to merit their inclusion in the story at all. But these issues are to be expected and I think (hope) those issues are nothing which can’t be solved by adding some new scenes here and there.

All in all, I’ve learnt a lot from this, and I’m really pleased with what I’ve done. It’s the longest piece I’ve ever written, and even if it doesn’t work out I know that I could do it again in the future.

I’m meeting with my supervisor tomorrow to discuss the piece. I really, really hope that I feel as positive after the meeting as I do now. Fingers crossed.

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How do you know when a short story is a short story, or possesses the potential to be extended into a novel?

While I was on holiday (just got back, very sunny and lovely with lots of reading), I had an idea for a short story. I sat in the shade of a beach umbrella by the hotel pool for a couple of hours, and ended up with around 1.5k of a first draft. I liked its tone: familial drama, with a little humour. My boyfriend said it reminded him a little bit of Mark Haddon’s A Spot of Bother. I definitely can’t complain about that!

But then….

“I know the ending’s quite weak, but –”

“Oh, I thought you hadn’t finished it yet. Definitely need a better ending.”

“Ah. Right.”

“But it’s a short story? I thought it was going to be something bigger.”

“Really? Oh. Well, I suppose it could be. Let me have a think about it.”

And over the rest of that day, that short story with a weak ending developed into around thirty possible chapters. There are a number of logistical problems at the moment, and if the plan were to remain as it stands, the reader would definitely have to make some definite leaps of faith. But those issues will resolve themselves as I think about it more. But, I do have some reservations.

Firstly, I liked the lighthearted tone (but dealing with quite a big issue) of the initial story (or first chapter, if we’re looking at it as a potential novel), and there was a strong theme running through it. These would be difficult to sustain throughout a novel, but I think a novel would be better if I could manage that. So this reservation might be just laziness talking. I.e. “I could just polish this into a story within a week or so, or I could slave over it for months and still not be happy. Now, which one do I want?” Hmmmm.

And secondly, how do you even know if an idea has the… well, the substance to survive transformation from a tiny kernel of a story into a huge monolith of a book?

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