River of Thoughts

Christine Royse Niles — Changing the world one word at a time

Let’s Write A Short Story!

Welcome to Fiction Friday.

Some of you, dear readers, are here because you support me and you will read pretty much anything I write. I love and cherish you guys. But I also know that many of you are also here because you are comrades-in-armspens. Many of you love to write as much as I do. This post is for you.

About two months ago, as part of Jeff Goins’ 15 Habits challenge, I took a risk and posted an excerpt of a short story idea I had been playing with off-and-on for a while. You guys have been incredibly supportive, and Zach and his zombie friends are coming to life.

Now, my dilemma. I’ll be really honest, guys…I have no freaking clue what I’m doing.

Fortunately, there are some really generous and kind people out in the Blogosphere who really like to help people (and zombies). One of them is Joe Bunting of The Write Practice.

For the past year or so (which is like 50 in Blog-years), Joe has been sharing wisdom about how to write intentionally. How to grow as a writer. How to craft stories and characters and plot and setting.  And how to be grammatically correct (which clearly I read, then ignore.)

Well, folks, in perfect timing, Joe has compiled some of his best advice related to short story writing into a book. A really good book.

Joe sent me a review copy of Let’s Write A Short Story at just the right time.

I am struggling to figure out what to do with a growing zombie. Plots and subplots and character development and world building and writing tools and on and on. I am overwhelmed.

Joe gets it, and he cuts through it all to help me focus on the craft.

Let’s Write A Short Story is equal parts encouragement and reality (Joe points out that it’s like 10 times easier to get into Harvard than to get a short story published, but that it’s still absolutely worth submitting stories for publication).  It’s equal parts strategic and practical tips (Joe shares secrets about how to improve your chances of making the first cut and how to pick the right publications for your story).  And, of course, it clearly explains the key elements of a good story (and how to avoid writing a bad one).

Over the next few weeks, I am going to taking some risks, following Joe’s advice, and asking you guys to keep me accountable.

By this time next month, I will finish and submit one Zach story for publication.

Which part of Zach’s story would you like to see “fleshed-out”?  Leave a comment… (and go buy a copy of Let’s Write A Short Story. It’s cheaper than going to Starbucks.)


Disclosure: I got a complimentary copy in return for my honest review.  After reading it, I told Joe it’s worth whatever he charges for it and I bought a copy just to support him. Also, I don’t get anything if you buy it–no ulterior motive here. So if you have ever dreamed of writing the Great American Novel, buy it. It’s good.


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About Christine

I am a writer, a project manager, and a corporate refugee with a heart for orphans around the world. My two daughters were adopted from Ukraine at ages 12 and 14. I post about writing, chasing dreams, and making a difference in the world, and sometimes I share fun snippets of fiction in-progress.

11 Replies

  1. AAAGH! You’re killing me! No more from Zach today, AND you say he’s only going to have a short story, not a lovely, involved, full-length novel? I can’t bear it! (OK, I can wait a month for the full thing, which I suppose is better than having to wait for a novel, but seriously…!)

    What would I want to see fleshed out? Well, I really want to know how Zach gets hold of the Book, how he gets the girl in the library to help him, what the weird girl who showed up a couple of weeks is going to tell him, what other stories Arthur has to tell, what havoc the guys with brain rot manage to cause…oh, and minor detail – how it all gets resolved!

    That didn’t help much, did it? Sorry! So thrilled you’re going to really go for this. Can’t wait to read the finished story, and yes, I’ll go and check out Joe’s book…

    1. Christine

      OH oh oh oh, Jennie, I am SO sorry! Please let me clarify… the FIRST short story based on Zach will be done in a month. Joe has taught me that this can be a stepping stone for Zach on his way to novel status. :-)

      Your questions are actually far more helpful than you can imagine, and I so appreciate your curiosity. You’re truly helping me see both the full story arc as well as the critical scenes. I love having you for a trusted reader!

      And Zach might still manage to make an appearance later today or this evening. The migraine yesterday just set me back a little bit…I’ll schedule lunch with him and see what he tells me.

      1. Phew! And how exciting!

        I’m really impressed that you can see this both as a full novel and (a series of?) short stories. I don’t know that I could break down the novel I’m writing into smaller sections that would be satisfying in themselves without just trying to squeeze the whole narrative into a smaller space – maybe this is one way that it helps that Zach is only telling you odd bits at a time – I feel like you’re discovering it almost as much as we are.

        I’m also very impressed that you managed to write this today, I was worried the migraine might have set you back too far – I know they can knock people out for days. Glad you’re better, and hope Zach’s in a cooperative mood at lunch time!

        1. Christine

          I honestly hadn’t thought of it that way until I read Joe’s book. Not all of it will work that way, but finishing various pieces of it will help me dive into individual characters and events in a way that would be harder if i kept looking at the whole arc.

          And yes, at the risk of sounding schizophrenic, Zach is only telling me bits and pieces at a time…but it’s time to start asking him some specific questions!

          Head is a bit better today–not pain free, but sounds no longer hurt. A combination of drugs, heat packs on my neck, and several naps with a pillow on my head kept me going in bursts yesterday. Thanks for your prayers!

  2. Hope your head continues to feel better. I suspect that once Zach makes his way from there onto your keyboard, you’re migraine will be a thing of the past!

    I’m personally waiting for a last-minute, surprise ending. Like Zach is the one responsible for the entire epidemic. Or, an underlying love story with his female friend that has decided to drop back into his life? Or both?

    I know you won’t say, but I have my own predictions. And suspense is key! Don’t feel obligated to keep the story going today. Look at ‘Breaking Bad’. In its final season, with 16 episodes they did what any great writing and marketing team did—stretch it out. 8 episodes this year, and the remaining 8 in July 2013. Very cruel, but very clever.

    You can skip a week. It only makes us want Zach more!

    1. Christine

      You keep talking about Breaking Bad…

      1. That’s not true. But now that you mention it, you should think about making Zach a meth dealer. And write Bryan Cranston into the plot line. And call the story ‘Breaking Bad’.

  3. yeah, i’m a bit behind. joe sent me a review copy too and i’ve only read the first few pages. but i’m in the same boat, christine. my fiction friday stuff has been fun but where am i going? well, i know how it ends – at least the current issue with niscene and the queen. but how do i get there? glad to hear joe’s book can offer some advice on how to get there. it is on my to-read list this weekend.

    keep up the good work!

    1. Christine

      Hope you get some time to read it this weekend, Tim. I’d say my big takeaway was the value of getting deep into individual characters and events through the story format. For me that paradoxically opened the way to seeing how to weave those together into the wider arc of the novel that Zach is careening toward.

      in short: novel=overwhelming. stories=stepping stones. finishing/submitting=learning more, faster=focus.

      Your mileage may vary! :-)

  4. Julie

    OK Friend…sorry this is late…fully meant to respond last Friday after realizing Zach wasn’t joining me for my morning coffee. I felt like the old “Dunkin Donuts” guy. (“Gotta make the donuts”) Maybe you don’t remember that commercial, but he was pretty much like a human Eeyor. I’m kidding! Kinda….I love Zach. Here’s what I’m hoping to figure out:

    – I want to know what happens between Zach and that girl. (Friends? More than friends? Is she is future?)
    – For some reason, I really like Arthur, too. I’m very curious about what he has to say. (What kind of relationship does Zach end up having with this guy? Will we get to see it unfold? Does something tragic happen to Storyteller? Does he represent some kind of historical event for Zach? I find him so very interesting….)
    – Are there any more specifics about the fighting?
    – What about the rot? How did Zach get it? Does that girl get it?
    – MORE BRAIN ROT, PLEASE! :) I like the brain rot people. They’re kind of freaky, but in an “I can’t stop staring” sort of way.

    *sigh* I really like Zach. I like the way he thinks and the way he tells his story.

    I don’t require or hope for any kind of ending. :) And I don’t require a timeline. I will purchase the books whenever they come out. It’ll be like a reunion with Zach over coffee. :) Very cool stuff, Niles. Very cool, indeed!

    1. Christine

      There will eventually be an ending…and knowing your questions helps me make sure I ask Zach to tell us all the relevant bits and pieces!

      BTW, which girl has you the most jealous? The one in the City, or the one he made coffee for the other day? 😉

      And yes, I do remember the Dunkin Donuts guy! Now I’m hungry again!

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