Changing Gears: Senior Year & Short Stories

I’m back at school for my senior year!  Hence the brief hiatus.

To those of you who have also returned within the last month–it’s crazy as ever, huh?   And to those of you also embarking on your senior year–we’ve gotten this far, so that’s something!

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling some of this:

Also this:

And a whole lot of this:

Regardless of where your life is at right now, I hope you’re all taking some time for yourselves, away from (school)work and other commitments, to do something that makes you grin from ear to ear and lose track of time.

Now, writing update. Soon I will apply to write a creative writing thesis.  It will be a collection of a short stories, and I’m looking forward to it quite a bit! Short stories are rather manageable compared to novels.  But it’s been a challenge for me to come up with brand new plots and characters.  Some strategies I’ve used so far:

1. Read all the short stories

This is my go-to solution to any writing problem I may be having. Examining a masterful writer at work does wonders.

Collections I’m reading as inspiration:

Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mayhew Bergman

Self-Help by Lorrie Moore

The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender

Blueprints for Building Better Girls by Elissa Schappell

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

2. Keep a writing journal

You know when you have that great idea for a story while you’re in the shower, or just as you’re falling asleep, and it’s so good you think there’s no way you’ll forget it?  Boy, will you forget it.  Write it down ASAP.

I mean this in the loosest of senses, though.  Personally, I use workflowy to keep track of all the sentences and little ideas I have that could potentially inspire short stories.

3. Listen to the People Around You

While my friend and I were catching up over dinner, she told me this really great anecdote about a sort of missed connection she had.  I immediately thought, Oh my god: this is excellent story fodder.

Don’t expect a full-blown plot to spring from anyone’s lips.  It’s your job to figure out what has potential and to discard whatever’s left.  I think it’s especially valuable to pay close attention when other people are talking about their childhoods.  Lots of great insights there.  And realistically, all you need is enough of a spark to get you writing the first sentence, right?

4. Read poetry

Full disclosure: I have not done this recently, but I’ve heard it helps. Focusing on word choice and details in the short story will help you use your limited space efficiently and pack a punch with every sentence.

5. Do writing prompts

Hate ’em or love ’em, there’s no denying that a decent prompt can make you think about things quite differently.

I’m in a writing workshop this term, so I’ll be posting some of the prompts my professor has used here over the next few weeks.

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