Posted in The Ponderings of Life, Words Upon Words

Thoughts After Writing a Short Story

A belated Merry Christmas and early Happy New Year’s to all of you! I hope your holiday break has been restful and encouraging.

As I prepare some New Year’s resolutions for 2018, I’ve been thinking back on this past fall semester and all that I accomplished. I finished my last four Lumerit courses for the year in 4 months–something I was beginning to doubt I’d be able to do in September. I also entered a short story contest.

In June of this year, a friend told me about a fairy tale retelling contest that was going on (something I might have briefly mentioned in a past blog post) and I couldn’t pass it up! Fairy tale retellings used to be one of my favorite genres and I read many of them growing up. This year’s fairy tale to retell was Snow White. We had 6 months to write and send our short story and I thought to myself, “why not?” I hadn’t entered a writing contest in years and since I was in a bit of a rut writing-wise, it might be good for me to try something new.

Since I was working full-time and taking a few courses over the summer, I didn’t start plotting and outlining seriously until August and September and didn’t start writing until October. I just barely got my story under the 20,000 word limit and e-mailed it off the day before we left to celebrate Christmas with family in Canada in time for the December 31st deadline.

Now all I have left to do is wait to hear the results. (Unfortunately, the big reveal isn’t until April of 2018!) Since sending my story,  though, I’ve been thinking over the whole process and how different it turned out to be than I’d originally imagined. It took a lot more time and effort than I’d planned, so my other writing projects got put aside for the time being.

And, just as life so often does, I learned a lot. As a friend and fellow contest taker and I were saying today, the story of Snow White now holds a special place in my heart. I’d never cared much for the story in the past…it seemed so cliche and simple. But after deconstructing it and building it in my own way (I wrote mine as a historical during the Civil War), I realized the core of Snow White is the contrast of stepmother’s pure jealousy and Snow White’s pure goodness–similar to our black wickedness and God’s white forgiveness. What a powerful message that can be conveyed if the story used to its full potential!

Another thing I learned is the power of a simple story. I thought my retelling could only be so good because I only had up to 20,000 words to tell it. But the maximum word count forced me to tell my story in a straightforward, no-nonsense way with no distractions (like ten sub-plots and 20 minor characters). The result? The clearest message, the strongest characters and the best writing I’ve ever written–at least, that’s what seemed to me while I was editing this month. But how can a short story be so much better than some of my novels? I don’t know. Either I’ve grown as a writer, so my writing style is better, or this experience has taught me the really important things to achieve when telling a story.

Even if I don’t win this contest, I think I’ve learned what I’m really capable of as a writer and that’s truly an exciting thing.

In 2018, I plan to reach for the stars. After all, I can only get better from here.

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