Sometimes I feel like I’m doing this writing thing backwards. Right now, I’m reading through the short stories I’ve drafted and I’m creating outlines for them.
But don’t you outline first, you ask? For a novel, yes. It just has too many moving parts and if I purely try to discovery write, I will get lost in the weeds and bogged down. But with short stories, I usually just have the idea that I want to do, the character that I want to explore, and run with it. That’s why short stories are fun for me.
Maybe the reason I love short stories is that I’m an outliner by necessity for novels, but in my heart I’m a discovery writer. I tried outlining with short stories, but I discover so much about my characters as I’m writing them, which invariably changes the outline because their decisions have to make sense for them. And there’s a lot less room to get lost in a short story. A couple characters, a single or at most two desires… I can keep all the moving parts in mind at once.
But this means my first draft of short stories tend to meander. And so revision is mostly tightening them up, centering them on the desire and what they need to do to get there and what is or is not getting met. This is particularly true of the story I’m revising right now for my Patreon project. It’s a lovely atmospheric bit of writing… but it doesn’t do what short stories need to do. As I’m reading it and outlining it, I realize I’m going to have to entirely gut and redo the middle.
Such is the writer life.