How to write a short story

I’ve been tasked with writing a short story and I’ll have to admit it’s a bit of a challenge.  Apologies if you’ve opened this post expecting me to tell you how to do it…I’m afraid the title of the blog is more of a question than a statement!

If I’m honest, I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d read a short story when I was asked to write one myself but despite my initial reservations, I’m actually starting to come around to the idea.  By short, were’ talking about one fifth the size of a full length novel.  It’s not exactly something I can whip up in a couple of days but still, it’s not the mammoth task of starting a novel and it won’t need to be as complex.  I don’t have to think about sub-plots or develop lots of different characters and when it comes to the inevitable rewrite and restructuring once my editor’s seen it then surely it’s going to be easier to deconstruct and put back together.  There, I’ve talked myself into it!

I’ve already gone through some story ideas with my editor Kim Young at HarperCollins and we’ve agreed on one that I’d developed a while ago as a future project which she thinks would make a good short story.   It’s about a married woman who has spent the last ten years trying to emulate her parents’ marriage but is failing miserably.  The story begins shortly after her dad’s funeral.  He died of a broken heart, unable to deal with the loss of his wife a couple of years earlier.  As well as leaving my heroine feeling alone, it has also emphasised how devoted her parents were to each other.  But there’s the issue of her dad’s pocket watch and the little bronze key hanging from the chain.  It might open up a door to the past or a can of worms…or both.

So with the storyline agreed, Kim and I had to negotiate the word length.  I had it in my mind that 10,000 words had been the original idea, Kim thought it was 30,000.  When we checked the contract, it was slap bang in the middle at 15-20,000 but given that it’s going to be an e-book, I think she’s happy for me to make it longer if necessary.

So why am I telling you all of this?  Well, ready or not I’m about to start writing it and I’m going to post regular blogs over the next few weeks to track my voyage of discovery.  There, I’ve committed to doing it now and there’s no going back!

What happened next?

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