Often, you begin writing with one thing in mind, and and up with something completely different in the end. Usually, we end up with something better than we ever could have imagined.
Since April, I have been on a quest with #The100DayProject to write 100 short stories in 100 days. Usually this challenge is meant for visual artists, but I took it as a challenge as a writer. I was meaning to write micro fiction, or about 500 words or less, depending on your definition. Then, I expanded into flash fiction, trying to keep my stories around 1200 words or less.
What I ended up with were short stories that begged for more time, more space. My stories grew beyond my expectations.
These stories were not just standalones. They ended up with different characters, but most of them all exist within a world that I discovered as I wrote.
The more I wrote, the more I uncovered about how the world worked and the characters that were in it.
Many characters only got one story. But, some characters whispered in my ear after their story was done, begging for another. So, I wrote more, and more.
At first, I didn’t want to listen to my characters. I was calling the shots. I really wanted to explore and push my creative boundaries and invent something new every day. But my characters told me I belonged in this one world, even if I was busy creating others.
It’s your characters that call the shots. You can try to tell them this and that, but they are stubborn and will only do what they want to do. You give them an inch, they will give you a mile of stories.
Your characters have their own stories to tell. Even if they don’t end up in a novel, if you can give them a short story, you might learn something new.
This tactic works well even for novels in progress. I have a novel that has been stagnant due to #The100DayProject, but it doesn’t mean I left the world.
I have short stories related to my novel that will never end up in it, but it gives you the ability to see things in a new way when you put it in the perspective of a character that doesn’t even exist in your novel in the foreground, but they’re there somewhere in the background.
Even if you don’t write 100 short stories, I’d strongly encourage you to write them as often as possible.
Short stories are bite-sized ways to explore ideas without having to commit to a whole novel.
Some stories may start short, but then you realize they demand a novel. Either way, being able to complete even one short story per week, or per month, you’ll grow so much as a writer.
Maybe you have stories you’re dying to tell, but you don’t know how to start or finish them, or if they could even work as a novel. Try it as a short story first.
Think of short stories as your sandbox, your playground.
It’s a place to write, make mistakes, and not worry about overwriting or underwriting. You don’t even have to edit them or reread them if you don’t want to. Just freewrite and see what happens.