Thing is, I've wanted to write an owl pellet story for a long time and I had an idea once, but it turned into Loud As A Murder. A fine story, but it's got nothing at all to do with owl pellets, and it took me a really long time to write. This brings me to the buried lead of the post: how long should it take to write a short story? In my case, three years. There are exceptions, but on average, from the initial spark of an idea to hitting the submit button, three years.
Apparently, this is excessive.
But is it? I'm not working on that story and only that story for three years. I'm doing other stuff. Still, I've been at this long enough to see a pattern and I've broken my short story writing process down into a 36 month timeline.
- Have idea. Idea is kickin' rad. Make notes. Do research. Start writing. Stall out at 1200 words.
- Open the document from time to time, usually when you're avoiding other work. Smile as you read because there's something special there. You've got a hook, voice, characterization, an inciting event...and no fucking idea where it goes next.
- Finish a project you started roughly 3 yrs ago and wonder what you ought to work on next. Hey, you've got that beginning of a story languishing on your hard drive. The problem is you're trying to write it around owl pellets and you need to let that go. Power through and complete a rough draft.
- Your rough draft sucks. You suck. You suck like a mongoose with an emotional eating problem. Do it again, but better.
- Send 5th draft to crit partner. Crit partner understands the anxious egg-sucking mammal version of you, and also knows stuff about good writing. She offers thoughtful feedback and talks you out of becoming a bricklayer. Rewrite. Suck less.
- More rewriting. You could do this forever. Maybe another 3 years. Didn't this story originally involve owl pellets? Now there's a good idea...