Sunday, November 1, 2015

#writing Installment 1 - Writing short? by Eliza March

In the next few months, I will be compiling ideas about writing short for a presentation I plan to give next year. Any and all ideas or opinions will be appreciated. 


A lot of mistakes are made in short writing. Why? Some writers think writing short is about taking a big story and leaving a lot of stuff out. They couldn't be more wrong. 

Writing short is taking a story before you write it and actually condensing the concept. You're going to pick out the essential things about an event that you want to write about, and choose the most important things about what happens in that short period of time using fewer characters, focusing on the main characters, and still writing a good story. You're going to use action verbs, descriptive nouns and make the story informative and interesting and satisfying.

At the moment, I'm writing three short books all at the same time. Well at different times throughout the day. I suppose it's better than writing the great American novel and trying to write something else at the same time. But the one good thing that came out of all of this was learning how to take the theme and condense it so I can write something shorter. 

 Would you like to learn what it takes to identify a story within a story? Today stories, movies and TV programming cater to those with the attention span of a gnat--or more correctly have spawned and nurtured the elements of a short attention span. Fifteen second commercials and two minute programming mean you must be able to develop more hooks within your commercial or story to keep the viewer or reader engaged. I recently was invited to do a presentation about "writing short" at a conference next year; so putting this idea together for a class that may help other authors intrigued me.

Consider your plot for any story. In most cases, you'll be telling the hero's journey. If it is an interesting story, every character's story contains goal, motivation and conflict, as does each scene. And in shorter books one thing you have to keep in mind is you don't have a lot of time to fool around. You have to get right to the point, yet keep the scene interesting and intriguing, all without making the story feel rushed. Action is necessary in every sentence, using active instead of passive sentences. You can't afford clutter from allowing the story from moving forward.

Your pace is going to be fast. You know all those extraneous adverbs and adjectives you like? Eliminate or limit them. Choosing the most effective verb, the most unique descriptive noun, or a choice sense to describe the essence of the moment becomes imperative.

You're also going to have to limit the number of characters you used to tell the story. All this doesn't mean you're going to short-sheet the reader. The most important thing to consider about short stories is to leave the reader satisfied. 

How do you accomplish this? Consider how we write an synopsis. Everybody wants a different size synopsis. So usually before I write the book, I have a good outline of what I think I'm going to have in the story. Then that long synopsis, which includes a lot of detail, can be condensed. I condense it to a shorter one if I have an agent or an editor who wants to see a shorter version. Sometimes the original can be anywhere from one page to ten pages, or more.

Now you can also do that with the book, if you don't mind slicing and dicing when the time comes, but I advise against it. Writing a long version means that you haven't thought out the plot very well. You can make a list and add everything you want in the list, and then go back and strike out all those elements that won't work, either because they aren't essential to hooking a reader and moving the main plot forward, or they complicate the plot and make writing it short impossible. Remove anything that hints of a subplot and all extraneous characters. Combine prototypes whenever possible; the sidekick with the mentor, the heroine with the sidekick, the antagonist with the get the idea.

Think of taglines and loglines. Not the same thing. Those are sometimes used in TV programs and the TV Guide used to have good loglines there so you knew what the TV program was going to be about but in a condensed version.

... next I'm talking about ... "All the different forms of writing short."


  1. Faith V. Smith asked where...
    My Answer - I'll be wearing my editor hat while doing this presentation at the Las Vegas Writer's Conference April 28th-30th 2016. You should check out their website for details. They have a great line up starting with Larry Brooks (Story Fix).


  2. I found this post interesting and helpful, and I'm eagerly awaiting the next post. Thanks.