Writing Corner: Kelly from This Northern Girl on Writing Short Fiction

Hi guys! I totally did not mean for it to be this long between posts, I was so busy at the end of last year with working full time in order to pay for going to South Africa and then of course at the beginning of this year I was obviously in Cape Town and on semi-hiatus, so Writing Corner kind of fell by the wayside a little.

However, it’s back now, and I’m very happy to share my first guest post of 2020, from Kelly who blogs over at This Northern Gal. I did a blog post for Kelly a couple of years ago so I’m really happy to be able to return the favour and host her here. I’m really excited to share Kelly’s post with you guys, as I have definitely be struggling with writing during this lockdown period, and I’m hoping her post about exploring shorter forms of fiction will be helpful for anyone else who feels the same way. 

Hands up if you have dreams of being a writer?

I certainly did and still do.

Now, put your hand up if you actually do some writing?

You’ll notice I didn’t ask about publication there. The only criteria was that you, from time to time, spend some time actually writing. That might be a novel you would like to see in a bookshop one day or a poem you never want anyone else to see. Either way, if you wrote it, you are a writer.

This, for me, is one of the central problems with writing. A lot of the time, we set ridiculous parameters on that matters when it comes to writing, which can then take away from what can be a very enjoyable  (and sometimes frustrating) activity. I used to think that I wasn’t working on a novel for publication, I wasn’t really writing. How ridiculous is that? You can be a runner without doing the London Marathon but I wasn’t appreciating the writing that I was doing.

The reality is that writing a novel is hard. Yes, I still do it – I’ve been working on a fantasy novel for months – but that doesn’t take away the value of other pieces of writing.

To be truthful, between a full time job, studying, blogging, reading and generally living, I don’t always have the time or motivation for a novel. Sometimes I just want to write and be creative with something that I have a chance of drafting in an evening.

This is where the biggest shift in my attitude to my writing has occurred. In the last year or two, a lot of my writing has been in shorter forms. My hard drive and notebook is full of poems, flash fiction and short stories. And guess what? Since I still wrote them, it still counts as writing!

In all seriousness, experimenting with new, shorter forms has reignited my love of writing. I’m motivated, I’m enjoying it and I’ve written some pieces that I’m really proud of. There is something very satisfying in knowing that I can write, edit and redraft a piece in a weekend if I want to. I love writing novels but they are a big commitment in terms of time, energy and planning that I can’t always make.

I’ve also noticed that my writing skills have improved (even if I do say so myself). Because I am writing more, I’m getting more practice in, which always helps! Writing shorter forms also requires a slightly different skill set that I’ve been trying to develop. When I’m writing a piece of flash fiction, I have to build a sense of character quickly. As someone who was used to having tens of thousands of words for character development, I’ve really had to up my game and adapt my writing style.

And capturing a character’s emotions in a poem? A fun challenge!

That, I think, is central to my new found love for shorter forms.  I am in no way saying that these forms are easier but they are certainly a different way of approaching writing from what I was use to know. Changing my approach has been a worthy challenge that I think has really helped with my writing and how I view myself as a writer. Particularly with everything that is going on at the moment, finding new ways to be creative and making the most of my bursts of motivation has been wonderful and essential.

If you’re feeling slightly unmotivated about your writing, I can’t recommend trying a new form enough. You might be pleasantly surprised. If you want to try it for yourself, here are some ideas:

  • Tell a short story using dialogue alone (this is trickier than you think but a great way to improve your dialogue)
  • Write a sonnet about an unusual love story
  • Start a short story with the line ‘I knew it was there. Of course I did.’

I’ve also been sharing writing prompts on Instagram and Twitter so if you are looking for some more, I have a few you can try.

I hope it helps you fall in love with writing, whether that is falling a little bit deeper or even falling back in love with it!

Happy writing!

Kelly is a writer, reader and blogger at www.thisnortherngal.co.uk. An all-round word-lover, she also shares her recent reads, writing prompts and snippets of writing on Instagram and Twitter. You can find her at @thisnortherngal on both of these sites.

Thank you Kelly for this brilliant guest post! Fellow writers, have you explored shorter forms of fiction? What are your tips for experimenting with short forms? Are you also struggling with motivation during this lockdown? Let me know in the comments!

If you are a writer and you would like to do a guest post for me, please get in touch! I have spots open through the rest of this year, from May-December, so either drop me an email (my email is jo.ell.x@hotmail.com) or a DM on Twitter (my handle is @iloveheartlandX). You can talk about any writing related topic you’d like, and it’s not limited to published or agented writers, all writers are welcome! You also don’t have to write fiction, if you write anything at all, I’d love to here from you.

I’m hoping to have another Jo Talks post up for you guys over the weekend, so look out for that. If I don’t get a guest poster for this next month, then I’m going to talk about Writing Whilst Abroad, and my experiences writing for Cape Chameleon whilst I was in South Africa, so that should be a good one (and I’ll probably post it anyway, even if I do have a guest poster next month, seeing as I have a lot of extra time on my hands at the moment!).

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