By Jeff Baker
Not every writer writes short-stories. The form has been described as “difficult” and “challenging.” Some fiction writers don’t write short-stories. I write almost nothing but short-stories. I haven’t discussed the process very often, and I don’t always do it the same way, but this is more or less how I do it. (Sometimes.)
First, there’s the idea. Ideas are easy. Everybody gets them. It’s what we do with them that counts. About four years ago we had a storm here and the power went out. It was Friday evening, we had no place to be the next day so we opened a couple of windows and hit the sack. As we lay there in the dark, I noticed that without the lights from our various charging gadgets and from the TV, the VCR and cable box (to say nothing of the streetlight a couple of houses down) it was really dark. I started to play around with the idea of the darkness as a living entity. Sometimes I get up and write down ideas I have in the middle of the night, but with the lights out I waited until the next day. I wrote the idea down and forgot it. And then…
…A year or so later I saw a call from a prospective magazine specializing in LGBT fiction and they wanted ghost stories. The darkness idea popped back into my head and so did a title: Something in the Dark. And suddenly I had the situation and the characters: Happily ensconced gay couple in the house where the darkness dwells. A subtle M. R. James-type story. And right about then the prospective magazine folded and I put the story on the back burner.
And yet another year or so later I found a market for the story. And a deadline. I had a couple of months to write the story. So, I followed my usual plan:
I wrote out what I call “a half-assed outline.” Sort of a combination outline/synopsis. It wouldn’t have got me any grades in any writing class I took in College, but it works. It helps me to know what happens when and to whom. Then…
I wrote out the parts of the story I already had. (Thank God for word processing programs!) When I have everything I already know written down it’s just a matter of writing up the bits that pull the various sections I have together. This is done in a crazy exhilaration of progress and approaching deadline. Then, there’s the proofreading and spellchecking and making certain the finished draft is ready to be zapped out to a market.And sometimes, I do it in a different way than all that!
The important thing is to keep working at the writing, and to keep writing.
Jeff Baker blogs about reading and writing sci-fi, fantasy and horror around the thirteenth of each month. His non-fiction appears in Lambda Literary; the story he discusses here was read on the podcast “Monsters Out Of The Closet”https://www.monstersoutofthecloset.com/listen/2018/12/25/episode-15-darkness for December 2018. He posts fiction on his bloghttps://authorjeffbaker.com/ He wastes time on Facebook at Jeff Baker, Authorhttps://www.facebook.com/Jeff-Baker-Author-176267409096907/.