Personal circumstance are, for the moment, preventing me from finding the substantial chunks of time I need to work on my novel. I should perhaps be enjoying this fallow period, but it makes me nervous that I will never be able to write again. To allay these fears, I signed up for a Short Fiction Masterclass, offered by the Short Fiction Journal: http://www.shortfictionjournal.co.uk/ .It is a 5 week, moderately priced course, which suggests that participants will produce something publishable by the end!
I have written quite a number of short stories over the years, with absolutely no success in competitions, nor publication in magazines or other outlets. Now, only one week into this course, I am beginning to realise two things, firstly the basic flaws in my previous attempts (too verbose, too full of plot, predictable situations and characters), secondly how useful it is to be shaken out of sloppy reading and writing habits. As a reader I have sometimes been left disappointed by short stories, almost certainly because I have not read actively enough and have missed the subtleties. As the introduction to the course states:
‘(The short story) may appear mundane, but never is. It absolutely must leave space for the reader to occupy, for them to become active participants rather than passive observers……Every word must bear the weight of the story, every sentence should be scrutinised by a hanging judge.’
The course offers six exercises, some to stimulate story ideas, others to sharpen close reading and critical analysis through examining extracts or complete short stories by published writers. I have done several writing courses over the years and find the systematic approach, the time constraint, the challenge of the exercises difficult, but motivating and productive. I only hope I’ll have time to do justice to the course and achieve something more successful in this genre than I have in the past !