Today you are reading one of my (relatively) rare writing posts, in which I am mostly going to share intelligent things that other people have said about writing. I admit that I am somewhat motivated by the selfish reason of wanting these articles available in the future for my own easy reference. But I’m also motivated because I’ve been thinking more about short stories lately because I’m critiquing three of them for WorldCon’s writing workshop, which takes place later this week.
First off, Goodreads did a survey on why people stop reading books. I’m fascinated by how many people don’t stop reading in the middle of a book because “as a rule, I like to finish things”: 36.6%! I’m so interested because I stop reading books all the time. I always have so many books in queue that I either should read or want to read that I’ll stop for any number of reasons: I’m not in the right mood, there’s another book I want to read more, the book doesn’t grab me, I can tell it’s not to my taste, etc.
But probably the most interesting number from that survey is that the single biggest reason why people stop reading a novel is because they find it BORING. From what I’ve heard, this is also one of the biggest reasons why slush readers stop reading novels and stories. So if you’re a writer, wanting to learn how to not be boring is a legitimate concern.
Rahul Kanakia, otherwise known as my favorite blogger, shares some thoughts about the difference between short stories and novels in the boredom department. Rahul was a slush reader for Strange Horizons and now teaches writing to unsuspecting undergrad students at John Hopkins, so he knows that of which he speaks. He talks about having the “So what?” reaction to short stories, which is one I often have as well, and how to work towards inspiring a stronger reaction.
(Incidentally, it’s really interesting to think about the different things that a reader tends to want from a short story vs. from a novel. There definitely seem to be things you can get away with more easily in a novel than a short story, and vice versa.)
Ann Leckie, who edits GigaNotoSaurus, among other things, writes about a problem she often sees in her slush pile: namely, that much of the work she reads is not very original and involve ideas that haven’t been thought all the way through. Which results in what exactly? You guessed it: BORING stories.
Finally, I think anyone involved in narrative storytelling should check out this article, which I first read more than three years ago and still refer back to. (I expect to be referring back to it thirty years from now.) James Van Pelt wrote an outline of a talk he was going to give about writing a great ending. I am such a stickler for stories and novels landing the ending, and this blog post is the best discussion of how to achieve this that I’ve come across so far.
Have you stumbled across any great writing resources or articles lately? Been thinking about any aspect of writing in particular? Feel free to share in the comments!