Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Emma Lai: Writing Shorts

Welcome, Emma Lai. Thank you for joining us today. I too write shorts so am particularly interested in this topic.

I've always liked a good short story…something that captures the attention, gets me involved, keeps me involved, and provides a satisfying ending, all in less than an hour. I like to immerse myself in the story, and I like to read a story in one sitting.
It makes sense then that I have a fascination with writing shorts as well. I have a couple of books started, but I keep getting distracted by shorts. So, how do I know when I'm writing a book or a short?

Books are easy. I know it will be a full length book if mapping out the basic ideas results in +25,000 words.
Shorts are easy if...
The scene that is the basic idea is short. (I say scene because all of my ideas start from a scene that repeats over and over in my head until I write it down.)What had to happen for that scene to occur is short. (I don’t want a lot of back story.)The consequence of that scene resolves itself quickly. (You can't have too many consequences lest the story become something other than short.)
Simple. Right?
I think the most important question is how do I keep the shorts short?
I don't always. I've had one short that just refuses to be a short. The characters demand to be heard, and I've fallen in love with them and their story; so I've decided to keep writing until we are all satisfied. I'm anticipating that it will be at least a novella, or maybe the beginning of a series.
As for the rest...I start by keeping the basic story between 3,000 and 5,000 words. That means bare bones. Then, I polish. I add the descriptions necessary for interest, for flow, for speed.
I don't change the basic premise. I don't say but what if I add this twist and that twist and ooh add this character and explore how the whole story affects him/her in addition to the main characters (that's a whole other short or book if you want it to be). You get the picture.
Hope this helps!

Blurb for His Ship, Her Fantasy:

Ellie Woods is in love…with a ship. When an argument with the ship results in a bump on the head, she finds herself in the strong arms of Alastair. But, who is he, and where did he come from?

Alastair has loved Ellie from afar for years, but duty has kept him from revealing himself to her. When a grave threat reveals his true identity, he hopes that Ellie will choose reality over fantasy.

A Little About Emma Lai:
My life has become very interesting this year. After finishing my comprehensives last November, I started looking for a job that would utilize my new degree in International Relations. However, the economy slowed down and then surprise, I turned up pregnant. My husband and I decided I should just go ahead and take the year off, enjoy being pregnant, and see where my writing took me. Now, here I am, a published author!
His Hope, Her Salvation coming December 16th
Please leave Emma a comment and you'll automatically be entered into my monthly drawing for an ebook of your choice.
Happy Reading and Writing!


  1. I only recently discovered shorts and I love, love, love both reading them and writing them. I thought they'd be easy to write. Well, no, they're not. Telling a complete story in 10,000 words is tough.

    Love the premise to your short. She'd in love with a ship

  2. Great blog post. International Relations sounds like an interesting field. Good luck with the pregnancy!

  3. For the life of me, I can't seem to do any shorts, not within the 10,000 words range. My hat's off to those who accomplish this!

  4. Congratulations to you and your husband on your pregnancy, Emma.

    I always say I can't write shorts, but I'm going to try some day. lol

  5. Kimber, I'm glad you've discovered the joys of shorts! Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Jennifer, IR is definitely combines culture, history, and politics to examine relations between and within countries.

    Thanks for the wishes!

  7. Miss Mae, I can't seem to stop writing shorts and I have full lengths beckoning! Need more time in the day!

  8. Thanks for the congrats, Sandy! If nothing else, writing a short could be an exercise in getting past writer's block on a longer story.

  9. Congrats on the baby and the wonderful time off to enjoy this and writing.

    You seem remarkable with full ideas for so many stories. Do you keep some type of journal to write them down as they generate so you don't forget one? Lately, I feel null of them, uninspired,and sort of stuck. So I'm just curious of your idea processes. Do you derive any from previous experiences, like work, home, or just by surroundings? What works best for you? Thanks for the tips on this.

  10. Ladyauthor2b, I do have a journal full of ideas. Most of the journal contains ideas I've gotten from reading history, science, or mythology books. The stories I have in progress pretty much all came to me from dreams or snippets of thoughts appearing out of the ether.

  11. I do love the near-instant gratification of a good short story. If it's well crafted, you can get a full range of intellectual and emotional treats in just a few swift pages. Delicious.

  12. I never thought I could do shorts, but since I read a lot of them now (I can't bear to start a story without finishing it all in one sitting) then I've also begun to write them. I think the hardest thing is 'enough but not too much' and you do that very well. I know where to go for help!

  13. Hey Emma! As you know, I write a lot of shorts, too. Here's an old piece of advice for writing shorts (I can't take credit for it, but can't recall where I read it, LOL):

    Put a man up a tree, throw rocks at him, get him down.

    Works every time!


  14. Thanks for visiting SarahAnn, Elizabeth, and Helen!

    Helen, great advice!

  15. Hey Emma,
    I love reading and writing shorts. I keep meaning to get back to my NIP (Novel In Progress), but keep heading back to my SHIP (Short In Progress), because I like the almost instant gratification of writing short.

    Congrats again on all your success. I've downloaded your story, but haven't yet read it. Look forward to it.


  16. Loved your short Emma, you know I fell in love with the ship too.
    I hope you continue to write them and I can't wait to read a full of yours too.
    Personally I think a successful short is much harder to do than a full length novel.

  17. That was me Emma, don't know why it said Miss?

  18. you've inspired me to try my hand at a short as soon as I'm done with my WIP.

    Don't you wish we could just write all day and forget about the "ther" stuff!

  19. the acronym's the first time I've heard it. Thanks for the support!

  20. LOL, Mary! I'm glad you liked the story.

  21. Good luck, Kathye! would be simpler if all we had to do was write. However, we'd probably run out of inspiration after a while without the other demands.

  22. Thank you for being my guest today, Emma. I'm glad to see we had a good turn out.

    Congratulations on your new release and upcoming new addition to your family.

  23. I can see why you fall in love with your characters. Just a few lines about them and they have us interested. Sometimes stories just start to breathe and don't want to stop until they exhaled their very last. Might be a short... might be a series. Great post.

  24. Hello Emma!

    Having begun my foray into writing with shorts, I can attest they are not easy to write! However, when they are written, they're a joy to read.

    Congrats on your pregnancy! Wishing you much success in your writing...

    ---Chiron O'Keefe
    The Write Soul: