Journey. No, not the band. I wasn’t particularly aware of this word in relation to short stories until I was offered a critique of a story I’d entered for a competition and was told that my story lacked it. My main character’s journey was unsatisfactory apparently and I had broken the first rule of the short story. There are rules? Nobody told me about the rules. Maybe the first rule of Short Story Club is that nobody talks about the rules of Short Story Club.
It was only when I joined Twitter and started reading blogs that I realised there are lots of rules. Journey was mentioned a lot, as was story arc and character arc, not forgetting the story arc within your story arc. Apparently I need a conflict and a climax and a resolution. All loose ends need to be tied up. There is a formula.
I panicked a little bit, particularly about the bit with the loose ends. My writing isn’t always this neat, life isn’t always this neat. Isn’t that the point of writing about it? To show how complex and messy it all is? Sometimes there isn’t a resolution, you see the psychological consequences of certain actions and events but often you’re left hanging, not knowing. There’s obviously a beginning and an end but hardly ever a nice, tidy finish.
A few years down the line, with some published stories under my belt, I realise that actually I probably am following my own kind of formula, it might not be as neat and tidy as everybody else’s but it gets there in the end. I’ve met enough writers to know we all have our own little ways of writing. Some make plans, they have every chapter worked out and know exactly what’s going to happen. Others start with an idea and just keep writing until it all becomes clear.
The point is, nobody can tell you all of this. I’m not sure what I feel about creative writing courses as I don’t think you can teach anyone to write, although I suppose they can give you hints and help to get you in the right frame of mind to write, as well as confirming to yourself why you want to write in the first place.
The main thing is to read lots and then write lots and that way you’ll find your voice. And look what I did? I only went and did an arc in this very blog post. I totally rule at this Short Story Club gig.