Friday, August 8, 2014

Shore Leave 2014 - Writing Workshop No. 2

This is my sixth post covering events at Shore Leave 2014, a convention of artists, performers, writers, scientists, and fans of science fiction and fantasy in general that took place from August 1 through August 3, 2014 in Hunt Valley, Maryland.

The second writing workshop I attended was titled Short Story vs Novelization. This took place on Sunday evening. This was a smaller group, but it was interesting and there were good questions from the attendees. These are some of the points that were covered:

  1. Get some your work (either short stories or longer pieces) published traditionally before self-publishing. They said, "If nobody else wants your stories, why would I, as a reader, want to buy your work?" This "traditional" path can be anthologies, web, micro-publishers, or a regular publishing house. This gives you some credibility before going out on your own. They also warned us not to publish our own anthologies unless you have already built up a readership.
  2. You will get rejected a lot. Keep trying. Eventually, you will succeed.
  3. Try to give them something different. Don't write another zombie story unless you have a unique twist that makes your story stand out from the rest of the pack.
  4. Writing short stories can help you develop pacing. And while some novels are really just a bunch of short stories strung together, there are differences. With short stories, you must use your words carefully. With a novel, you have a bit more leeway to provide background and other details that might be distracting in a short story.
  5. Join a local writing or critique group, if one is available.
  6. Don't let family be your beta readers. They will either be brutal without providing real guidance because they are family or they will tell you how wonderful the story is because they are family. Neither is helpful.
  7. Again, you will get rejected. Keep trying. You will succeed.
  8. When you get rejected, put that story away for a while (six months to a year) before resubmitting. If an anthology called for stories about dinosaurs with machine guns and yours is rejected, a lot of others were rejected, too. Right after the anthology is closed, other publishers will be inundated with stories about dinosaurs with machine guns (yes, this was the example they used) from all those who were rejected. Wait for the smoke to clear (no pun intended) before submitting it again.

There was some disagreement with the old idea of starting on short stories and progressing to novels. Some authors thought that if you do novels best, start there. If you're better at short stories, do that. Other believed that doing short stories first built a foundation of skills for creating longer works. They did seem to agree that novelettes or novella-length stories are making a bit of a comeback.

There were some other writing workshops that looked interesting, but my schedule didn't allow me to attend. Maybe next time! If a convention like this comes by your area, check it out. There are many interesting ideas discussed and many writing contacts to be made.

© 2012-2014 K. R. Smith All rights reserved


  1. I like the advice of seeking professional publication first for the experience and knowledge to be gained. I also agree with the person who said to stick with what you do and what you know. Novels and short stories are two entirely different forms of story telling.

    1. I was surprised to hear that what they recommend is what I've been doing. Not that I had a plan - I just didn't know what else to do. I think I will self-publish at some point (probably a novella-length piece), but I want to get into a few more anthologies with my short stories/poems first.


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