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Short Fiction: Skills for Novels

Writing short stories can be frustrating, hard, and defeating. It can make you feel like you have to take down a Kraken as a mere mortal human, and Perseus it out on a honeymoon.

But there is something satisfying about finishing a short story that shares a specific emotion or event. When you have to tell a story in 5k words or less, word choice becomes important. When you have to do it in under 500, you succeed or fail based on word choice.

This chaotic, at least for me, type of writing only teaches me every time I write a story, flash fiction, or microfiction piece. It is challenging but I always learn something new that I can apply to writing novelettes or novels.

Word choice is important. But using the correct words to bring your reader deeper into the story can be one of greatest skills you can learn from writing short fiction. Take these two sentences as an example. The second sentences tells more of the story with the same amount of word but pulls you into the reading even more.

"He quickly moved through back side of a tent that was left open"

"He creeped with the shadows and slipped into the back of a tent."

As we revise and edit these shorter pieces, examine each word and determine if there is a better word to pull a reader deeper into your story. This is just one of the biggest things that I have learned from writer short fiction recently.

Learn more about crafting short stories through Mary Robinette Kowal as she guest lectures for Brandon Sanderson. (2020 Creative Writing Lectures at BYU)



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