Here's some of the advantages of short story writing over novel writing for me:
- I like starting a piece. When I open the blank document, type my name and contact info in the left corner, and then scroll down to the page's middle to type a title, my heart races a little. Right now, at this point, the story I haven't written yet might be as good as "Fondly Fahrenheit" or "Think Like a Dinosaur," or "The Green Hills of Earth," or "Croatoan," or "Second Person, Present Tense." Anything is possible!
- I like the idea that I'm going to finish within a few days, maybe even the first day. Short story writing feeds the writer's version of ADD that I seem to suffer from.
- I like getting to lyrical moments. A lyrical moment is a place where I feel I've earned the right to let my language soar. I start putting together peculiar similes, odd metaphors, rhythmic anaphoras, synethesias, hyperboles, synecdoches, and a host of other poetic techniques. I feel like I can get to that moment quicker in a short story.
- I like messing with the tightly wound connections in a short story. A phrase that I used in the first paragraph can suddenly become vital by the third page because I've returned to it again. A toss-off description on page one surprisingly echoes on page seven. Everything touches everything. Basically, I like plot daisies. (novels can have tightly wound connectedness too)
- I like discovering my true material. Although I want the story to be wonderful when I start, I start most stories telling myself that the idea is trivial, no more than a flash piece at best, but as I write I find myself wondering why this particular triviality has caught my attention. Always there is a deeper significance. A story idea is just as self-revealing as an answer to a free association question, a dream, or a Rorschach blot image. There's some reason why that idea bubbled up and not a zillion others.
- I like editing, but it's a lengthy process for me. I'll go through a story a half a dozen times with a different mental filter each time. Each pass cleans it a little and makes the entire thing shinier. I think what's held me up on my novel is that the editing is a frighteningly huge task. I can tackle 5,000 words, knowing that I'll spend more than a couple of hours, but 100,000 words!? OMG
- I like closing in on the end. Even short pieces I generally don't know exactly how they will end, but somewhere around half to three-quarters of the way through, the ending will focus. That's a cool feeling! When I'm writing short stories, I get to have that feeling more often.
- I like submitting work. Right now I have six pieces circulating in the publishing world.
So, even though short stories are not financially important, I like doing them. I'm glad that I've spent the first six weeks of this summer vacation writing them. I submitted "The Family Rocket," yesterday. "Mrs. Hatcher's Evaluation" and "The Hareton K-12 County School and Adult Extension" were also finished in the last few weeks.
My wife asked me what I was going to write today. Honestly, I don't know. I'm casting about for ideas. Maybe something trivial to keep my fingers busy until a really good idea comes along.