The Cussedness of Short Stories

I am not here today to post writing advice.  Today, I am here to post about an aspect of writing that is incredibly difficult for me.  Call it a rant, call it a cry for help…whatever.  So these calls for short stories keep coming to my attention…short stories for anthologies with absolutely awesome themes (I can blame my publisher, 3 Fates Press, for 2 out of the 3 painfully cool themes).  And short stories, for me, are like pulling teeth.  Ask me for a novel any day – I mean, it’ll take a year to write and another year to edit, but I can come up with the material – no problem!  But a short story is a different animal.

“Nonsense,” you say.  “Surely a short story is much easier than a novel!  It’s short.  A novel is long!  It’s simple A novel is complex!  It only needs one conflict and one climax.  A novel needs many!”  Ah.  Yes, all these things are true.  But therein lies the difficulty.  I feel claustrophobic about short stories.  I have to have enough conflict to make a story, but not enough to draw it out.  I have to develop and push the characters – but very succinctly.  I have to make the story world vivid, but I can’t put in anything that isn’t directly relevant to the forward progression of the plot.  Mind you, I can write a haiku poem like it’s nobody’s business – I can be efficient with words!  One of my personal rules for novels is that every scene has to do at least two jobs, or it gets cut.

My hope is that the motivation of having 3 awesome themes to work with, combined with the process of actually writing 3 short stories within a few months, will kick my brain into understanding how it’s done.  In the meantime, those of you who find it easy to churn out short stories should count yourselves lucky – and feel free to offer advice on plotting (and keeping a plot on task)!  Ha!