Monday, September 06, 2010

Guest - Lisa Kessler

Good morning everyone! And Happy Labor Day to all our USA readers! We have author Lisa Kessler with us today and she's given us a very interesting article. I think you'll enjoy it :-)

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Hi Everyone

Thank you Lynda for inviting me here today!

I’ve always been a sucker for a really good short story, the ones that stick with you long after you reached “The End”. I remember reading “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson and “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell in high school, and I wanted to write like that.

Later I discovered Stephen King and Ray Bradbury, also masters of the art of short fiction. In a few sentences you’re transported to another world, and already vested in the characters. You need to know what happens next.

I was lucky enough to meet Ray Bradbury after one of his lectures about writing, and I asked him for advice on improving my craft. His eyes sparkled and he replied, “Write a new short story every week for a year. At the end of the year, you’ll have ideas to last a lifetime.”

I’ll be honest here. It took me almost two years to take his advice.

Call me hard-headed, but I had sold short stories in the past. I knew you didn’t get much money, and at that point in time it took me a few weeks to write one story. It was tough for me to imagine that short stories would help me with my paranormal romance novels.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

When I finally committed to take Ray Bradbury’s advice, I started my blog and posted a new short story every week. I learned about story arcs, crafting a tight beginning, keeping tension in the middle, and finding a satisfying ending.

There is no room for backstory in short fiction. The beginning hits the ground running. Every word counts. Through writing short fiction, you learn faster ways to research and edit, until your writing process itself is also streamlined. Instead of taking a couple weeks to craft a new short story, I could finish it in a day.

Flash Fiction is also an excellent exercise. Using the topic of “Murder in 250 words or less” I crafted micro fiction that forces you to make each word meaningful. Powerful, vivid verbs are a necessity, and another useful tool to add to a novelist’s toolkit.

During my 52 stories in 52 week journey, one tale demanded more attention. I wrote “Moonlight” as a short story for my blog initially. Shortly afterward, my local RWA Chapter challenged us to write a novel in nine months, so I took the short story and ran with it.

It was just announced this past week that “Moonlight” is a finalist in the Kensington Brava/RT Writing with the Stars contest!

So in the end, Ray Bradbury was right. In fact, I loved writing 52 stories in 52 weeks so much that I still try to post a new short fiction on my blog each week. We all read books on the craft and go to workshops, but writing short fiction gives you hands-on practice and like any art, you learn by using the techniques not just talking about them.

If you’ve never finished a novel, or if you’ve been toiling over edits and rewrites on the same book, short fiction might be just the thing to get you to the next level. And who knows, your next great novel might come from one of your short stories.


Bio: Lisa Kessler writes dark paranormal fiction novels and short stories. Her vampire short story, Immortal Beloved, was a finalist for a Bram Stoker award. Immortal Beloved can be found in the Dead Souls anthology from Morrigan Books.

Lisa is an active member of her local RWA chapter as well as the Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal online chapter. Her novels have been finalists in the Winter Rose, On the Far Side, Spring into Romance, and the Linda Howard Award of Excellence.

Her novel Moonlight is currently a finalist in the Brava/RT Writing with the Stars contest.

When she’s not writing, Lisa sings in musical theater productions and operas. She lives in San Diego with her wonderful husband who reads every word she writes, and two amazing teens.

Dead Souls – Kindle - http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Souls-ebook/dp/B0038VZG5C/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=digital-text&qid=1283726734&sr=1-1


Print - http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Souls-2-Ramsey-Campbell/dp/9197760587/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1283726776&sr=1-1



Lisa’s Blog – http://blogs.myspace.com/Lisas_Lair

Lisa’s Websites – http://LisasLair.com , http://myspace.com/Lisas_Lair

Lisa’s Facebook – http://facebook.com/LisaKesslerWriter

Lisa’s Twitter – http://twitter.com/LdyDisney

Lisa on Goodreads - http://www.goodreads.com/lisakessler

17 comments:

Pauline B Jones said...

What a cool story and a fun challenge (though challenging! LOL) Wow. Did you find it built blog traffic? A built-in readership for when your novel releases?

Marie Andreas said...

Great blog Lisa! Hey, you can't go wrong if Ray is behind an idea ;). The man knows his stuff!

And congrats again on the Brava finaling! You're my hero! :)

Lynda K. Scott said...

Wow, Pauline, great question! Now I can't wait for the answer :-)

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Since I also write a lot of short story fiction as well as novels, I found this post particularly interesting and helpful. Readers of novels will tolerate a lot of back story. But short story fiction is an entirely different genre. Bradbury was a brilliant writer and gave excellent advice.
Great that you got to meet him!

Lisa Kessler said...

Good morning everyone! :)

Great question Pauline! I should have added this to the blog! Duh! LOL

The answer is a huge YES! Since I started posting new short fiction each week my blog went from no subscribers to over 300! *boggle*

When I started the challenge I never realized that one of the perks would be building a readership for myself, but that's what it has done. Not only did my writing improve, but by the time my novels are published I already have a fanbase who will tell their friends to grab a copy of my book!

So Marie is right, Ray Bradbury "knows his stuff"! LOL

It is a HUGE challenge and it's not a quick fix. (I found out a year is a LONG time!) But wow I would do it again in a heartbeat!

Hope that answers your question, Pauline!

Thanks for inviting me today Lynda!!!

Lisa :)

Lisa Kessler said...

Hi Jaqueline! *waving*

Thanks for stopping by today!

Nice to see another short story writer! :)

Meeting Ray Bradbury is on the top 10 list of the coolest things that have ever happened to me for sure!

Lisa :)

Pauline B Jones said...

indeed it does! your quest reminded me of that gal who did the Julia child cookbook over a year. she ended up with a book deal (and a movie) out of it. Cool and congrats!

Linda Wisdom said...

Very cool, Lisa!

And I'll attest that she's got an awesome voice and a great writer!

Lisa Kessler said...

Oh Pauline I'd be beside myself if my Ray Bradbury challenge turned into a book & movie deal! LOL

Hi Linda!!! *waving* WOW!!!! I love love LOVE your new book cover!!!! Thanks for stopping by the blog today!!! Your encouragement means the world to me!!! *HUGS*

Lisa :)

SiNn said...

wow congrats on everything willhave to check outur blog and all ofthat sounds great tho and ur right Ray does know his stuff

Lisa Kessler said...

Thank you SiNn!!!

I hope you enjoy my blog! I've got lots of short stories and flash fiction up there, so feel free to read anything you like... :)

Thanks for stopping by today! Happy Labor Day!

Lisa :)

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I find all of the techniques for becoming a better writer to be so diverse and so interesting. You have made a good point with the short stories and the difference in writing them in comparison to the longer novel.

Nice meeting you today.

Linda Thomas-Sundstrom said...

HI Lisa! Good to see you here. Wonderful post. Yes, I can relate to writing short stories and novellas, fast, with quick deadlines, for my Nocturne Bites. I l-o-v-e writing short. Ideas just flow. In and out is the way to go. Drop into the action and stay there. Rev up those motors and fly.... I could write novellas all dang year and enjoy every minute of it.

Many successes ahead for you.
Since I've read your stuff, I know you'll continue your climb to the top. All that cream rising...

Plus, there couldn't be a nicer, or more enthusiastic person on the planet.

xo - from
Linda
www.lindathomas-sundstrom.com

Keena Kincaid said...

Hi, Lisa. Great topic and fabulous advice from Mr. Bradbury. Short story writing offers unique challenges, which you capture well. I wish you success in your writing career.

Keena

Lisa Kessler said...

Hi Paisley! *waving* Nice to meet you too! :) I'm glad you found the blog today helpful! :) Feel free to stop by my blog or website anytime! :)

Hi Linda!!! *waving* THanks so much for coming by to comment today!!! Your support means so much to me!!! *HUGS*

Linda does write some fabulous novellas! Be sure to check out her Nocturne Bites! :)

Hi Keena! *waving* Thanks for the good wishes and for stopping by to read and comment! Short story writing really is an amazing teacher... You can try different techniques you've heard about and experiment without having a long term commitment like you do with a novel.

Great way to find your unique writing voice!

THanks for visiting and commenting everyone!!!

Lisa :)

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to have met you Lisa, even if it was on line through your short story blog on myspace. I love you stories and your witty humor.

Best of luck on you winning!

Hugz xo
Peg

Lisa Kessler said...

Hi Peg! *waving*

Great to see you here!!! :)

Thanks for all your support and encouragement on my blog!!! It makes a HUGE difference...

THanks for the good wishes too! WOuldn't it be amazing if Moonlight won? Wow! LOL

*HUGS*

Lisa :)