Julie's Quest

Hello, and welcome to my blog. My blog is about the trials and tribulations of writing, where we celebrate successes and commiserate our near misses. We tell it like it is here and will do our very best to help you on the road to being published and pick you up after the rejections (they will come!) Whether you are a professional or amateur writer you will find something useful here.

I hope you enjoy reading my posts and will visit again soon.

Happy Writing

Julie Phillips - freelance writer - member of the Association of Freelance Writers - member of the Society of Authors

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Short story satisfaction

I'm going well with the short stories now and I'm much happier with the one I've just been editing. I find I have to be in the right mood to write and edit short stories and it's no good me attempting to write one if my heart just isn't in it. I know some people advise to force yourself to write - anything - but that seldom works for me.

What I've been concentrating on with this short story (and struggling with) is putting the right amount of emotion into it. I don't want to drown it in sugary sweet emotion and leave the editor (and hopefully readers) feeling sick! But I don't want to render it cold and unfeeling either. The story is about an emotive story and something we all face as mortals so I want to get it just right: enough to get the sentiment and poignancy across, but not too much that it ruins the ambience.

I've read and heard so much advice on this subject since I started on my writing quest that I know emotion and the human condition is a vital part of a shoet story  -  it's part of how we show character and move the story forward - how we get the reader to care about our character and what happens to our character, makes them read the story. But it's hard to get the balance just right and I'm learning so much from reading other writers' short stories in the women's magazines that are full of emotion and make me care about the characters and want to read the story again and again (thank you Helen. M. Hunt and Teresa  Ashby!)

In order for the magazine fiction editor and ultimately the reader to care about my characters I have to care about my characters  too. I need to want them to come alive on the page so they can tell the story I have in my head to it's best advantage. The story has to come from the right character and in the right voice and show the character's personality and motivation in how they solve their conflict. And that's what I'm still learning to do.

I'm almost ready to give the stories to a fellow writer to peruse  - I've not really done that before and I was nervous to ask for help, but I trust this writer and I know they will tell me like it is and give me good, constructive advice on how I could improve my stories and where I'm going wrong  -  and that's exactly what I need! So I've bitten the bullet and I now it will be one of the best decisions I've ever made. It worked with the articles so lets hope it works with the short stories.

I've been busy at nursery and with having a couple of bouts of colds/flu a lot over the past month I haven't had much chance to write to my usual intensity but I'm much better now and have a few hours tomorrow to finish the two short stories I want my fellow writer to look at. The sun has cheered me up and so has being able to write more again.

What do you think about emotion in short stories  -  how important is it and how do you get the balance right?

Happy writing

Julie xx


klahanie said...

Hi Julie,
I might not have much expertise on what you have asked.
As you are probably aware my writing is just a bit of cathartic therapy for me. However, this is my thinking on your question. When I write, whether a short story or something a little more epic; I take on, indeed become the emotions in my stories. So I think that if one is to 'write from the heart'; the emotional impact conveyed to the reader and to yourself are of the utmost importance.
And the balance? I think you can tell by how it feels to you and the reactions from those who read it; whether the balance is right or wrong.
Sorry that I'm not much help. You have to remember that a lot of my stuff is bordering on ridiculous. I sit down and sometimes only take 30 minutes to write a blog. An example of this is my last blog. Perhaps, proof positive that I should take more time:-)
All the best with this, Julie. I hope you are feeling even better after such a beautiful sunny day.
With respect and kindness, Gary x

Diane Perry said...

Oh good luck Julie, You have put so much effort into all the analysis of these magazines, and this post is interesting. I am sure it will pay off soon.

Kate said...

I don't know much about the women's fiction market but yes, it is so important that the reader empathises with your characters - and if you can touch them emotionally too then so much the better. But short stories are such a wonderful form to write aren't they :-)

Julie P said...

Hi, Gary, and thanks for your most welcome comments. I think that writing from the heart is a good way to look at is as some of the women's mags do indeed tag their stories as 'one from the heart' and that helps in determining what genre it is: romance, life, supernatural, and which market to aim it at.

I used to keep a journal where I'd write down everything I was feeling and I found that provided such a powerful insight into myself. It was, as you say, cathartic and people write for a variety of reasons, all valid, and as long as we enjoy the process and achieve what we set out to achieve with our writing, then the writing has served its process.

Best wishes

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Thanks, Diane,

I hope the drumming workshop gives me some inspiration on Saturday too!Julie xx

Julie P said...

I love writing short stories, Kath, and after a long period of non-fiction writing it's been such a joy for me to write some fiction - makes my toes tingle!

Even if the stories I'm writing now don't get published, I'm having fun writing them, and learning all the time - and that's the important thing.

Julie xx

Carole Anne Carr said...

You are learning a lot and at the same time enjoying your progress. Make sure you ask someone who has had short stories published in the magazines you are aiming for. Hugs.. xx

Julie P said...

Hi, Carole

I've learned so much - a great lot from Mr Swain and I'm continuing to learn all the time by reading a lot of the short stories in the women's mags too. And yes the reader has had short stories in the mags and is also a creative writing tutor so I know I'm in safe hands!

How is Candle Dark and the next one (the title has escaped my frazzled brain at this precise moment!) Does it have time or line in the title?! Or have I gone completely barking?! (it's only a matter of time ;0)

Julie xx

Julie xx

Kath said...

Hi, Julie. Glad to hear it's going well. I think feeling positively happy about a story is a sign it's one that should be persevered with.

About emotion - and I'm speaking as a reader here - I believe the best way to avoid it being too syrupy is to mix some humour with it. That's what we do in real life when we're going through an emotional patch. It won't always be appropriate of course. I must admit, I'm more a fan of a good mystery than of the "one from the heart" type of story but I do admire it when done well.

Olivia Ryan said...

You're right Julie, I think it's just as important to empathise with your characters in short stories as it is in longer fiction - and more difficult, as there's less time to build up that relationship with them! You do need to feel the emotion yourself, and if it's genuine felt, I don't think it will sound 'sugary' and sickly! Good luck with your stories.

Julie P said...

As it happens, Kath, I have put a bit of humour in it too! I do hope I can get it right this time!

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Thanks, Olivia! Trouble is, I do tend to be a little over sentimental and sensitive sometimes, so I have to stop myself from getting carried away in my short stories!

It's almost 'finished' now, so we'll see what happens.

Julie xx

Simon Whaley said...

Hi Julie

I agree, getting the emotion right is difficult. It's one of the weaknesses of my short stories - and I'm sure that's coz I'm a bloke!

I also think that emotion helps you to show a story rather than tell it, which is why it is useful too!

Have fun bashing your drums on Saturday! (That'll get blogland talking!)



Suzanne Jones said...

I'm keeping fingers crossed for as much success with your short stories as you've enjoyed with your articles.


Julie P said...

Hi, Simon! I don't think our fellow bloggers are shocked by anything I do now! They won't bat an eyelid about my banging!

I disagree that blokes are emotionally challenged! They just show their emotions in different ways to women. Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars!

I'm looking forward to saturday!

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Thanks, Suzanne!

I'm still working on getting over my anxieties about submitting more short stories and this is what is slowing my progress down a little, alongside school commitments! But I remain optimistic and know that I will be ready to send stuff out soon - I'm aiming to get our two stories by end of March.

Good luck with your writing too!

Julie xx