Monday, September 21, 2009

Writing Short Stories

Short stories, by their very nature, are limited by length, but that does not mean they are equally limited by depth or purpose. In order to fully utilize the power of a short story, I have a few suggestions.

First, limit the number of characters in the story. The fewer the characters, the more you can drill into the core of each one. I’ve read one short story that worked well with numerous characters, but I think it was necessary for the type of story that it was. Unless you need a great many characters to make a specific point, I wouldn’t recommend doing so.

Now that you’ve cut the cast down to a paltry sum of players, keep the plot focused. Don’t include multiple subplots or unrelated flashbacks, no matter how cool those paragraphs felt when you wrote them. You risk confusing or agitating your reader. If you really like a certain off-topic narration, perhaps you could reuse it in its own short story.

Finally, don’t over-fixate on inconsequential things. For example, you may write two paragraphs that describe the details of a clock, but if the clock isn’t mentioned again, you’ve spent too much time on it (no pun intended). Now, perhaps you purposefully want to focus your readers on something of no real value in order to hide something of importance, but even so, I would caution against complicating the story. Along the lines of this precaution, try not to get too flowery with descriptions in general. I don’t know what the right balance is for “just enough” detail, and I’d rather err on the side of too much than not enough, so I think this comes down to personal style. Just be sure to be as concise as your style allows!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Rough Thoughts

After completing my latest rough draft, I had some additional thoughts, some of which may overlap with a previous post, but even if so, I feel they are important enough to rehash.

Don’t slow down. Keep the rough draft moving. I have a tendency to want to edit as I go, and that jeopardizes my train of thought. For example, I might write: “Her eyes were blue,” and think, “No, not blue. Better than blue. What’s another word for blue?” Then I rack my brain for words or open the thesaurus. Finally, I insert the word “cerulean,” but by now, I’ve forgotten everything else I imagined about the character or how I was going to unveil her appearance. Rather than trying to be overly poetic, I often revert back to my everyday vocabulary in order to keep things simple, even if the word “blue” appears twelve times in the same paragraph.

Another tip is to keep notes as you go. I’ll either have a separate document on my computer for this, or (as is more often the case) I’ll have a loose sheet of paper on my desk that I can scribble on. In my latest draft, I decided partway through a battle that I didn’t like the weapon one of the characters was using, but rather than going back through the previous paragraphs to figure out how and when to insert a different weapon, I simply made a note of the problem and continued writing as though the character had always carried it. So long as I read my notes (or at least pay attention while editing), I’ll correct this blooper later.

The important thing is to identify how you tend to slow yourself down during the rough draft and to find ways around those obstacles. Word choice (especially for character names) is probably my biggest downfall, but I know how to avoid it. What makes a rough draft rough for you?

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Aoife’s Kiss Giveaway

This Giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to the following winners: Nina Iordache, Desmond Warzel, and busweet. If you're a winner, and I have not contacted you directly, please send me an email (matt [at]

To celebrate my recent science-fiction publication, “fc01a9,” in Aoife’s Kiss magazine, I’m holding a special giveaway. Three winners will be selected at random from all entries.

The Prize: A copy of the September Issue of
Aoife’s Kiss.

What is fc01a9?

Before Dale can enjoy a weekend of reading manga in seclusion, Mark interrupts his plans with the news that they’ve lost contact with the rover on Phobos. The most recent download of its data contains a file that neither developer recognizes named “fc01a9”. When they’re unable to open the file within any standard applications, Dale decides to see what fc01a9 does by running it on a test rover in the building’s sub-basement. The mysterious program puts the machine into self-diagnostic mode, and as fc01a9 runs, it grows in size. When the diagnostics finish, the five-ton arachnid stands still. Or is it ominously waiting?

To read the entire story, it's currently available at the website for Aoife's Kiss.

If you use twitter, you can earn two entries:

For one entry: Follow MatthewWuertz on
For a second entry: Retweet the following message: “@MatthewWuertz is giving away a free copy of Aoife’s Kiss magazine:”

If you have your own blog site or web site, you can earn up to ten entries:

For two entries: Post a link on your site titled: “What is fc01a9?” that points to this URL: ( As proof, add a comment to this post that links to your post.
For ten entries: Write a review on your site (minimum of 50 words) about my story, “fc01a9,” that includes a link to the September Issue of
Aoife’s Kiss as well as a link to this contest ( As proof, add a comment to this post that links to your post.

Official Rules: This contest is open from now through October 4, 2009 (11:59:59 EST). There is a maximum of twelve entries per person, via the means described above. Each person may only win once. I am not responsible for merchandise lost or damaged in transit. The selected winners will be listed on an update to this post. Once the winners and I have come in contact, I will mail a copy of the magazine to each winner as soon as possible (yes, I’ll cover the postage – even for winners located outside of the United States).