Not only does keeping a journal of short fiction keep your creative writing muscles working, harvesting your short fiction might lead to your next great idea for a novel.
Do you write in a journal or writers’ notebook? What do you write about? Are the entries related or just anything that’s on your mind? Are they observations you make of the world? Are they imaginative descriptions that you might use later?
Do you ever take this a step further and write a short piece of fiction – from as short as a single paragraph to few pages? Have you ever considered keeping a “short fiction” journal? You might just hatch something big.
Discovering a great idea
While the point of writing open-ended short pieces of fiction is to practice your writing skills and explore your creativity, they can also yield gold.
Inspiration can strike at any time. Perhaps you craft a situation or a character you love, or a setting you know you need to explore. Might this be the seed of a short story? Or the first scene in a book?
Perhaps you write a few more short pieces on and around this subject and ideas just keep blossoming and concatenating. You can see characters and setting. You keep writing.
Dipping in and out of a potential story gives you the freedom to skate across the surface and cherry-pick. Perhaps you keep going and can see a plot that is bigger than a short story. Do you have a book in your hands?
As you move through the landscape, you learn what fits and what does. Twenty or more sessions of great writing might eventually link together into the start of a first draft.
Maybe your short pieces end up being a little story that sparks the idea for a book-length plot.
You’ll have a super lead character experiencing action with the promise of a full plot and you’ll be inspired to build a whole story-world around it.
Penning a bunch of these sparks can be a great way to ignite book ideas. You can write as many as you want and pick the best after a time — the one that relentlessly sticks with you. The book you must write.
Tone is the “paint” of your book
If you have a book idea, you need to find the right tone. Can you capture it in one of your short pieces? Tone is the “paint” of your book: the coloring, the attitude. It’s a key aspect of your writer’s voice.
Many authors talk about starting a new book project by exploring language until they tap the right tone. Once they do, they are off and running. If you can nail tone and voice, even in one piece of text, you can use it again and again to paint your book.
Just as you can use short fiction journaling to explore ideas, you can use these short passages to find inspiration for rewrites.
Sometimes, second drafts can be daunting. There is so much to do. Letting go of those old ideas is hard, though you know you need to do better.
Penning short fiction can be the solution. Pick just one bit of the story revision that intrigues you. Resketch, expand, and morph. Even a short piece that captures where the story takes place or one conversation of dialog can serve as your north star.
Perhaps a scene isn’t working and needs to be rewritten. Perhaps you need to change the voice and motivations of a character to better fit the story. Maybe you need to develop the details of your setting. With enough shorts, you might inspire a fabulous rewrite packed with substance and style.
Think small and get big results
Sometimes it’s least daunting and most creative to think small.
The practice of writing short pieces of fiction provides lots of benefits, from practice to catharsis to the chance to hatch bigger ideas and revise promising passages.
This can be a long-term project as, over time, keeping a short fiction journal will build your cache of interesting ideas and characters. If your book idea snowballs, it could even merit its own short fiction journal.
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