Posted by: oneyearbook | October 27, 2009

The twenty-one day short story

So last night was the last class of my continuing ed class at Camosun with Susan Musgrave, as described in this post. So now you may ask – did I, in fact, as assigned, write a short story during the 21 days that the class covered?

Well yes I did! It’s still very much in the first draft stage, but the story, currently called Migrants, is 5,000 words on paper that were not in existence before I took the class. The class took the opportunity on Monday to read a couple pages from our work and to take a few comments from the class and Susan has also graciously (considering that, officially, the class is over, and she teaches three other classes through UBC’s non-residential MFA program) agreed to read and comment on our stories if we choose to email them to her.

I have made an effort over the last little while to read more short stories, because I think one of the reasons I quail before the task of writing them is that I don’t read enough of them to sort of ‘get’ how they work. That seemed to be a trend among the other class members, as well – a lot of people who said they didn’t read many short stories, or that they didn’t like the modern form of short stories but preferred the older style, which often features more plot and more clear resolution. I think it helped, this reading effort, so I guess I should keep it up. Just because I believe that I’m not really a short story writer doesn’t mean it’s true; it just means I haven’t tried, really.

The 21 days thing is a bit of a lie, though, really – what happened was that I slogged away at one plot for the first seventeen or so days, found that I wasn’t getting anywhere at all with it, and last Thursday, decided to start again. Then I wrote the first draft of this thing entirely that day. It moved. It worked. I went from beginning to end and that was that. In class I suggested that this is just my method, that if a thing is going to work for me it’s going to work smooth and fast. Lesson learned, I suppose; thanks, class! Also the story grew out of a ‘write a first line that starts a story in the middle of things’ assignment we did in class, so I’m grateful for that, too. I may just take that up as a regular exercise.


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