I’m not a seat of the pants kind of writer, even when it comes to short stories. Now, mind you, I don’t outline for short stories (though I might jot down notes or lines that come to me). I definitely know where something is going when I sit down to write it. I do change my mind and write something else to make things make more sense when I have to. I imagine, however, that anyone watching my short story writing process would think I’m doing it on the fly.
This is because I write short stories in one or two sittings and hardly ever have notes (I usually do research as it comes up, thank you Google).
My short stories don’t start on the page. They start in my head and sometimes have a very long gestation period. Novels are the same way, though I tend to write up more notes when thinking about novels due to the sheer amount of stuff going on in my head when it comes to bigger projects.
First, there’s the spark. Whatever set off my mind with a “hey, this could be a good story”. From the spark I start to think about what it needs to fill it out, to bring it from cool character/idea/image/line of dialog etc… into being a full story/populated world. From there I decide if the idea is going to need a novel length to fill it out (ignoring here, for the moment, that one of the most common coments I get on my short stories is “hey, this would make an awesome novel” sigh) or if I can turn it into something shorter. Frankly, I prefer short stories because I like to just sit down and finish things. Also, rewriting fifteen pages is far easier than rewriting 300.
But my point is that I spend a great deal of time thinking about everything before it ever sees the page. I run through potential scenes, characters, what would or would not work in the particular world I’m inventing and why, and other useful questions like that. I sometimes even start composing in my head and run through different POVs and tenses to feel where I want to start a story.
And then there are the times that I call my version of Writer’s Block. I never run out of ideas, ever. However, I occasionally get stalled out because my brain won’t stop with the thinking and focus on something long enough for me to just write something. It’s why I haven’t been sleeping lately, and why I’ve done nothing but revise things for a few weeks now. Too many bloody ideas.
So I’m going to have to force-march my brain for now, I think. No starting or thinking about anything new before I’ve finished the following:
Sparks (fantasy short story), Prince Called Courage (fantasy novella), final edit of Monsters (fantasy short story), two thesis short stories (prewriting for my thesis novel), Chwedl draft (fantasy novel) and the rewrite of Casimir Hypogean (science fiction thriller novel). The ambitious part of me says I can totally do this by September. Suuure.
I’m going to do the short stories first, mainly becaues that means I’ll have eight or nine short stories out making the submission rounds while I hunker down to finish the novels. I want to be done with this all by September since starting my thesis novel early wouldn’t be a bad idea. Fortunately, ideas are imploding my brains but good when it comes to that novel, so at least it won’t be stalled due to lack of my head working on it. Which is different from Casimir Hypogean, the bane of my existence. I’m going to look at it as a learning experience and force myself to finish the rewrite. If I never touch it again after that, so be it, but I’ve come too far to give up now. It’ll take about 6-7 weeks of hard work to complete at this point. I can do it.