It’s challenging to wrap a whole beginning middle and ending into 3000 words or fewer, just as it’s challenging to write a 150,000 word novel. In fact, I am not sure if one is inherently easier than the other when done well. The latter takes planning and perseverance. The first, a lot of word skill. I see both as equally valuable.
It’s addictive and helps propel one forward to the next project with vigor and a sharper focus.
One thing short forms have going for them is time economy. I am a slow writer, and sometimes I take months to craft a short story draft. But I can do it. Whether I take a day, or a few months, I have tasted the flavor of finished work. For a writer, that is huge.
It’s addictive and helps propel one forward to the next project with vigor and a sharper focus. If you struggle to never finish a writing project. Try a short story on for size.
What is difficult to do in short forms is world build. Only that which moves the story forward can be present. Only enough detail as to not confuse the reader should be used. Focus, a sharp point to stay within the intended word count.
Short stories come in many forms. 10,000 words, 5,000 words, 3,000 words and anything in between. Under 1,000 is generally referred to as flash fiction. These brief flashes of creativity seem a natural fit to our modern busy lives. I see them becoming more and more important as our world spins faster and faster.
Then there is the micro-story, anything under 300 words. I particularly enjoy dribbles and drabbles, 100, and 50 word stories. You can read my latest contribution to the drabble world here.
To weave a story with words that are implied, but not written, takes skill.
The shorter your word count, the less the story becomes about the words on a page or screen, and the more in becomes about what is not there. Reading in between the lines, writing with emotions that are not spelled out. It’s truly an art form.
To weave a story with words that are implied, but not written, takes skill. It’s a skill worth honing for any writer as that word economy can be what lifts a full-length novel apart from all the other books on a shelf.
Short stories written about the same people, or place, can be used as building blocks to larger projects. Use them as bridges between your dreams and reality.
But we should never forget the power of the standalone short piece. Their honed narratives and pointed emotions can drive truth and learning into our busy hearts and minds.
When was the last time you read a short story? Did you enjoy it?
Several months I got to participate in an author interviewed with Kirsten McNeill. She is a fellow creator, author, editor, podcast host and creative coach. She has some really amazing new things in her future. But following her dreams has meant she needs to leave some old projects behind, so the platform our interview lives in is coming down.
Today, it gets a new home in the form of this post, and I really encourage you to check Kirsten and everything she is about out. She interviewed me about my upcoming chapbook, and now I will also share her creative endeavors with you.
A bit from Kirsten:
As a creative, I’m always coming up with new project ideas and searching for ways to express myself.
One of my latest ideas is to become a life purpose/creative life coach to encourage writers (and other creators) to embrace their journeys and live the life they want unapologetically.
I love helping others feel good about themselves and work to build a positive mindset in their daily activities. And many writer friends have said that I’m already leaning into the coaching world with my sunflower happiness!
My first step in becoming a life coach is taking a certification program. There’s one starting in October, and the last day to sign up for the early bird special is October 1st!
I’ve created a campaign goal on Buy Me A Coffee and it would mean the world to me if you helped me reach it!
Show your support by spreading the word, helping me raise funds, and letting me know what you think of the EXTRAS!
Learning from this program will expand my knowledge base to help others feel more confident and happy in their journeys.
Hello Mary Grace! Please introduce yourself and share 5 fun facts!
My favorite food is sushi.
Sushi pairs with nothing better than a Dr. Pepper. Yes, I am that weird.
I am a huge Anime fan. The classics like Hunter x Hunter are my favorite.
One of my favorite singers of all time is Kevin Max. Some people might recognize his name from the band DC Talk.
I have had my hair just about every color of the rainbow, except pink. Pink is not my favourite.
What inspired you to begin your writing journey?
Ever since I was a little girl, I have been a very avid reader. Back then, my favourite books were about Pippi Longstocking. I loved that a little girl like me could adventure and do ridiculous things. Stories give us freedom to dream like that. I used to make up my own stories about her.
As I aged, I found that writing gave me release from the confusing emotions that come with growing up. It felt so natural to me to use a pencil to dream and pour out my pain and fear and doubts.
I have only been aspiring to write for others the last few years. It’s only because of the encouragement I received from other writers and authors in my life that has given me the courage to ‘write out loud’.
What are your favourite genres and themes to write about?
I write a lot of poetry. It’s a wonderful way to process emotions and understand them. I enfold questions and truths about my own mental health, and faith into these poems. I love story telling. Poems are great ways to tell stories in vivid imagery. The short story in its many forms is also important to me. The ability to compress all I want to say into just a few words is something I am continuing to learn. I like to use short stories to explore how different perspectives can lead to a deeper understanding of the world and ourselves.
What are the challenges you face in writing?
Finding time would be one of the biggest challenges. I have been homeschooling two of my three children over the past year. Much of my life has revolved around childcare, so the moments I steal in the middle of the business to write are often interrupted. I also have a mild form of dyslexia. I have improved over my years of writing but rely on grammar software to see mistakes that my eyes and brain miss.
Tell us about the poetry collection you’re working on!
It will be a grouping of twenty-five of my best faith-based poems. These poems revolve around my prayers, my questions, even my battles with mental health and faith. My working title is ‘The Branch That I Am’. I hope to make this collection available between August and the end of November, of this year 2021. This is my first experience working with a professional editor, and I am enjoying the learning happening in my creative space.
What are the best parts of bringing topics of mental health and faith into your writing?
What a great question. Overall, I think it’s the chance I have to share Hope. When we are in the middle of darkness, it is so easy to lose sight of the hope that we have. I believe in a God that will sit with me in the middle of my pain and confusion. He isn’t far away, he is present. He is that hope.
The two are so intertwined in my life that I cannot separate them. If I didn’t have that hope, I wouldn’t still be alive. SO the best part of sharing my hope with the world as writing, is that maybe someone else will come to hold hope as well.
How do you balance your writing schedule with the other aspects of your life?
Not always very well. My kids always come first, but the crumbs on my carpet don’t get vacuumed up enough. I do try to take all my tasks for the day in bits and pieces spread out. Everything I write starts as a note on my phone. I write whole rough drafts there.
What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned in your writing journey?
It’s okay to write crap. Honestly, it’s so freeing to know that the first draft doesn’t have to be this glorious thing. It’s almost always really horrible. THAT IS OKAY.
What’s the most important thing to you when it comes to creativity?
It is individual. As humans, we are constantly comparing ourselves to each other. But our creativity is as distinct as our fingerprints. My writing or painting may have similar styles to someone else, but they are my own. My skills and message will grow at their own pace.
What’s the best advice you can give to fellow writers?
Never give up. When I was fourteen, I knew I was a going to be a writer. But I didn’t know I would be a poet, no idea it would take until I was in my 30’s to bloom and be ready to show the world my words. Don’t give up. If you put words on paper, or screen, you ARE a writer.
What do you do when you’re struggling to come up with ideas?
I really love short forms of writing. I use six word stories as an exercise when I feel blank inside. It starts as just looking at someone else’s art, a picture or painting, and trying to see the story hidden behind the obvious. I try to express it in just six words. If I can focus and pull those six words from my heart and mind, it usually jump starts something for me.
Can you share your favourite snippets from articles and poems on your website? What makes them special to you?
“I asked the Lord to keep me brave. Hold my chin above the wave.
Lend me strength to tread the line. Close my mouth to deadly brine.
Whether rescue comes for me, or in death, I am set free.
I asked the Lord to keep me brave, as I swim above the grave.”
These lines from my poem ‘He Keep’s Me,’ might seem dark to others. But to me, it’s a reminder that I am never alone. He always keeps me brave.
‘When Creativity Hurts’, is one of the first articles I wrote on creativity.
“I also ask myself, is it worth this hurt? I always came back to the answer, yes. Creativity is worth every tear. Why? Because it can help me heal, if I let it.
Will I let it? Will you let it? Or will we all let creativity work its cauterizing powers on our emotional and spiritual wounds?”
These are just a few lines from the article, but they show the heart of it. Creativity is such a gift from God. There have been years I lost hold of my creative spark in the middle of my battle with depression. I pray God gives me the strength to never let it go again.
What are your goals for the future in your writing career?
After this first chapbook, I have plans for several more centered around different themes. Family, Love, Nature, and Thoughts about life in general. I would like to see one published per year for the next four or five years. Whether I accomplish this will depend on that family work time balance. Further down the line, I have hopes for writing full-length novels and collections of short stories.
Any last thoughts to share about Mary Grace or your writing experiences?
I just feel so blessed in being given the opportunity to share my story. I’m humbled by the thought of my words reaching out in to the future and touching those I will never meet. I am praying for readers and fellow writers to come alongside me and help me learn, grow, and reach my goals. If anything, we have talked about resonates with a reader, I encourage them to reach out to me. Join my monthly newsletter and let’s do this thing called creativity together.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Mary Grace van der Kroef!
There is power in poetic verse. Words roll off the tongue like music and lose us in the sway of emotions that flood each word. But what about the messages hidden within poetry?
There are many ways to hide truths and or lies behind emotions. Often poetry takes us on a path we don’t control and we discover answers to questions along the way. But not always. If the engine that drives a piece is emotion, it’s inevitable that the author will sometimes get it wrong. After all, we need many more things than love to survive this world, and those that love should definitely still use the phrase, “I’m sorry.” Still, poetry has at one time taught us these things as truth.
How do we sift through the half-formed thoughts, fragmented ideas, and coloured emotions of poetry? Is it worth it? It is, especially when the poet speaks to us of their own personal story, with words that journey to understanding.
I say, you will never find gold if you are not first willing to sift the rivers for it. Maybe that is what a poet is. A prospector, braving the cold river of emotion, the pan of language in hand, searching the sediment of life for nuggets of truth. Will we find gold? Or pyrite? Or nothing but unwanted rocks?
You will never know until you are willing to jump in that river or start a poetic journey. The key is to understand it’s a journey, and a fragment of a journey, not a whole.
I thank God every day for the gift of the written word, and the gems I have found in the gift of poetry. But I also know, not every word I write is truth. They are expressions of emotion. I am also aware that the things I believe in this moment will change, as it should. Life is continually teaching us. A person who stays the same is a person who never grows.
I pray I can grow with open eyes and mind, ready for the truth, but also aware of the lies. For searching for both is necessary for growth.