At last week’s Twin Cities’ Sisters in Crime meeting, noted mystery writers Jessie Chandler and Pat Dennis walked members through the “do’s and don’t’s” of writing a successful short story. Below are a few highlights from the workshop:
- A short story isn’t a seven-layer cake, it’s a cupcake.
I like the visual of the short story as a few bites of delicious storytelling. Don’t overload your story with too many characters or scenes. I’ve noticed that the more I write short stories, the shorter they get. In a short story―unlike in the bedroom―less really is more (lol).
- A short story is a watercolor not an oil painting.
Paint a portrait of character, mood, atmosphere and setting with brushstrokes, not a trowel. One thing I’ve heard repeatedly is that you don’t have to do all of the work for your reader. Letting the reader fill in some of the blanks in your story makes it a more rewarding experience for them.
- Start your story with a bang and end it with an epiphany or “aha” moment.
I think this is good advice for writing a story of any length.
- Avoid common mistakes.
These include sloppy writing, poor grammar, and not following submission guidelines. While each publisher will have their own guidelines, I found a link where you can download the standard format for a manuscript at http://www.shunn.net/format/format.pdf. *You’re welcome.*
- More common mistakes.
Pat pointed out that if you have any questions about your work, you should listen to your inner voice and figure out what’s not working in your story. Both Jessie and Pat mentioned a big no-no for writers is not taking constructive criticism to heart even if they’ve asked for it. And please thank everyone who reads your work―whether you agree with their comments or not. In this business, it never hurts to be professional and polite.
The timing of the workshop was perfect, coming as it did on the heels of the announcement that the Twin Cities chapter is now accepting submissions for its upcoming anthology, Dark Side of the Loon. As usual, Jessie and Pat were both amazing and Michael Allan Mallory’s handout was super-helpful. Thanks to everyone for a great workshop and a great night.
Interested in World Building? I’ll be teaching a class this weekend for all genres of writing and for people who are currently writing a story or have an idea for a story. In class, we will discuss stories in which the world really comes alive for the reader. Everyone will leave class with a story bible template to help them jump start or finish their story world. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to register. More information at: https://www.facebook.com/events/1159186177535739/?ti=icl