In Q and A, I try to get at something valuable from my fellow writers, by asking just a single question.
Installment #3: Matthew Simmons, Seattle, WA.
At what point can you tell that an idea is worthy of becoming a short story? Or similarly, at what point does a short story appear to be asking to become a novel? Consider this a process question, as much about the specifics of your writing practice as it is about how you let the work decide what it needs to be, and if there are lessons to be drawn from for others.
I find that I really only have one way of determining whether or not an idea is a short story or not. You have to take the idea to the page and work it out there. I don’t really take notes or create outlines. I know a beginning because it sounds like a beginning. I tend to know an ending because it feels like it’s there imbedded in the beginning. And the rest of it is all the writing and the looking at the page and the hitting of the delete key and the talking out loud and the shaking my head and the standing up and sitting right back down and the standing up and walking to the kitchen and the getting coffee and the coming back and the typing and typing and typing and hating and typing and loving and typing.
As far as I can tell, from what little experience I have with the novel, the difference is just that the idea I happen to be working on right now got to a certain point where it could be a short story and it, instead of the ending being the ending, the ending said it was also a beginning. And the same thing has happened a number of times in a row. Each new beginning is suggested in the last ending. And each ending suggests a place for a new beginning.
I don’t know if I can tell anyone how to recognize this. But I don’t feel like I’m hiding anything from anyone. It feels to me like recognizing this chain is really (shockingly) easy.
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Matthew Simmons is a writer living in Seattle, Washington. Like me, he loves cats.