I have this folder full of excellent advice from people who are far smarter than I am and who have succeeded in this whole writing business. And yet all those links sit there unused because I look at the long list of links and can’t remember what any of them were about.
And I’m lazy. So going through them and trying to put them together and make them into something more than mere regurgitation is a challenge. I have to find a theme. Or choose quotes. And that’s hard.
And I start to do so and then get distracted by my sudden desire for a piece of cheese or to check my e-mail. (Good news is I hate the new Facebook so much that it doesn’t distract me anymore. I only go on there now because someone might get engaged or have a child and I won’t know otherwise.)
But I did it for you today. I found a few links that I’ve been hanging onto for a very, very long time (otherwise known as about a year), that are definitely worth a quick read.
The theme: short stories.
First: The Story Is All: Ten Fiction Editors Talk Shop from Clarkesworld
Just what it sounds like. Ten SFF editors discuss what they look for in a short story, what “fit” means to them, reasons they reject a good story, and advice for someone submitting fiction.
I particularly liked Patrick Nielsen Hayden’s advice at the end:
“Read something other than SF. Do something with your life other than struggling to sell SF stories. Sheila Williams, above, rightly recommends that you populate your stories. I’d say you should populate your life. Do some stuff that not all the other striving writers have done. Go out into the world and discover interesting things about how it works. Report back.”
Also, the advice that I am admittedly bad at following–read stories published by your target market. And advice that I hope I succeed at following–be polite.
Second: Orson Scott Card and John Brown on Stories with Soul
Yet again, the best bit seems to be at the bottom:
“…the most important thing is always the honest outpouring of what you truly believe in and care about, using all your skills to make it as clear and accessible to the widest possible audience you can reach without violating the truth of the tale.”
Third: A Comprehensive and Totally Universal Listing of Every Problem a Story Has Ever Had from Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine
There’s a ton of good advice in there delivered in a, uh, unique style. But I wanted to highlight this one.
“Fiction should weave, tangle, knot and twist multiple stories together into a whole that is greater than the parts. If you have A story in what you’ve written, it probably isn’t enough to carry even a thousand words. Two stories woven together, layered on top of each other and pulling the characters in different directions can carry a reader much farther. Even in the context of short fiction complexity is important and it usually takes two or three stories and a couple interesting ideas stirred together to really get it done.”
On AW I saw someone talking about how short stories were too short for multiple layers of meaning. I tend to disagree. (Doesn’t mean I can write those kinds of stories myself, just means I think they are possible and, even, desirable.) And if you think that you can’t combine multiple ideas in one short story, then read some of the really great short stories out there to see how it’s done.
It may not be easy, but it is possible.
So, there you have it. Advice from smart people who know what they’re doing.