Neil Gaiman on short stories

Specifics about craft, talent, technique, etc.
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disgruntledpeony
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Neil Gaiman on short stories

Postby disgruntledpeony » Thu Dec 26, 2019 9:36 am

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articl ... _and_music

This is worth a read, y'all. Eight tips on writing short stories from Neil Gaiman himself. Feel free to discuss below. :)
If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn't expecting it. ~ H.G. Wells

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TimE
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Re: Neil Gaiman on short stories

Postby TimE » Fri Dec 27, 2019 1:40 am

disgruntledpeony wrote:https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/2xRBPL1VlMZVLZbJ1R3mkTK/neil-gaimans-eight-tips-on-how-to-write-a-short-story?ns_source=twitter&ns_campaign=bbc_radio_4&ns_mchannel=social&ns_linkname=radio_and_music

This is worth a read, y'all. Eight tips on writing short stories from Neil Gaiman himself. Feel free to discuss below. :)


Thanks for posting this. I like Gaiman's writing and I enjoy hearing him speak. Most of these seem sound points to me - and I do like the 2nd draft being about making everything look intentional. I'm not so sure on how on writing a short being perfect practice for a novel but having said that - my shorts for WotF do tend to be long ones.
Some HMs More Rs - I keep thinking I'm getting closer, but perhaps not.
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Re: Neil Gaiman on short stories

Postby disgruntledpeony » Fri Dec 27, 2019 4:47 am

TimE wrote:Thanks for posting this. I like Gaiman's writing and I enjoy hearing him speak. Most of these seem sound points to me - and I do like the 2nd draft being about making everything look intentional. I'm not so sure on how on writing a short being perfect practice for a novel but having said that - my shorts for WotF do tend to be long ones.

I'm especially fond of #6 ("Write as if you're having to pay to put each word on the page"). That's definitely a tip for 2nd draft and up, but it makes a great point regarding word economy.

As for short stories being perfect practice for a novel, I think Neil is talking about writing multiple shorts rather than one. I don't know that it would work this way for everyone, but I started writing short stories in the hope I'd develop the wherewithal to finish a novel eventually (I'd made several failed attempts over the course of a decade once I decided to make the transition from fanfiction to original stories). Four and a half years and something like a dozen finished shorts later I finally feel ready to make that push, although I'm not sure how long said push will take.
If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn't expecting it. ~ H.G. Wells

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Re: Neil Gaiman on short stories

Postby TimE » Fri Dec 27, 2019 5:12 am

I thought about mentioning #6, but at up to 17,000 words for WotF, we're hardly writing flash fiction. I like descriptions.
Dunno about multiple shorts being practice for a novel - but maybe as the shorts grow from 3-4,00 towards 17,000 - that would count. Coming back to Gaiman's comparison - if I ran 100metres every day i'd never be fit enough for a marathon. But if I built up to a longer distance...
Not so sure about him saying there's no mistake you can make in a novel that you can't make in a s/s - a novel will have subplots and a variety of locations. Maintaining pace is harder in a novel - I'm sure there's more.
Perhaps we need to know what length Gaiman thinks of as short.
Some HMs More Rs - I keep thinking I'm getting closer, but perhaps not.
CWA-Debut Dagger shortlist. https://thecwa.co.uk/colours/ (Still trying to find my genre - but perhaps it's scifi - and perhaps it's not)

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Re: Neil Gaiman on short stories

Postby disgruntledpeony » Fri Dec 27, 2019 6:58 am

My stories have, at least for the most part, gotten shorter as I practice, but I think that comes down to learning my own personal economy of words. I've gotten better at figuring out what to cut and from where as time goes on, and I've made the effort to write shorter in hopes of selling stories to other venues should they not make it here. (The shorter a story is, the more likely it is to sell, simply because there are more markets for it. ...I hate that, but it is what it is.)

I own/have devoured at least two different short story collections by Gaiman over the years, and the answer seems to be: whatever length best suits the story. Some of them are flash, or close to it, but many are in the 3k to 5k region and I do believe some are longer. (I will admit, I'm operating on old memories here.) I can certainly attest to the fact that Gaiman writes a variety of story lengths--everything from children's books to 100k novels.
If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn't expecting it. ~ H.G. Wells

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Re: Neil Gaiman on short stories

Postby RSchibler » Fri Dec 27, 2019 7:34 am

I think that short stories help us with the requisite skills for novels - strong characters, tight plotting, interesting conflict, rich world building - without requiring the months or years of investment a novel needs. Many of the skills required translate to novels, if not all.
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Re: Neil Gaiman on short stories

Postby reigheena » Tue Dec 31, 2019 6:38 am

RSchibler wrote:I think that short stories help us with the requisite skills for novels - strong characters, tight plotting, interesting conflict, rich world building - without requiring the months or years of investment a novel needs. Many of the skills required translate to novels, if not all.


This is exactly why I switched from writing novels to writing short stories. Sure, there are some skills that are required for one and not the other. But my main weakness was character, and I found I needed a faster iteration to work on that skill than a novel would provide.
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Re: Neil Gaiman on short stories

Postby RSchibler » Tue Dec 31, 2019 6:53 am

Exactly. I needed to work on character arc and internal logic, and short stories allow me to do that without having to invest 80,000 words in the process. My novels have definitely gotten stronger as a result of my short stories.
V34: R, HM, R
V35: HM, R, R, HM
V36: R, HM, HM, SHM
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ALWAYS available for critique. PM me.

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