Learning to write short stories to improve your long stories

Writing short stories has always been a challenge for me. My ideas are usually too complicated and require a lot of set up and character development.

or so I thought.

Recently I’ve realized I am not doing myself any favors by refusing to refine this form of writing. After all, just about all my favorite writers got their start publishing short stories. There are so many more opportunities to publish a short story than a novel.

My first attempts were pretty bad. Even with “shorter” ideas, my stories were too complicated, too convoluted, and really pretty boring.

Then I came across an anthology with a theme that I was already writing a novel about.

And a lightbulb went off.

Because I already had the backstory, the world building, the set up in my head, I used this opportunity to write a short, side story about a minor character in my novel. A character that I would have liked to have given more attention, but it would have bogged down my novel.

As a short story though… it worked.

But I still had to edit, clean, and cut down words to make the word count.

Unfortunately the anthology was cancelled, but I did receive an encouraging reply.

So I kept trying. And I kept getting better. Ideas for short stories came easier. Keeping them short came easier.

And then something pretty cool happened.

I had to do some major edits on a novel manuscript. And that came easier. I had an easier time finding run on sentences, cutting out words, making everything clearer and more concise.

Learning how to write short stories made editing my novel easier.

Since this glorious revelations I have shared this discovery with some writing friends of mine. Most of them haven’t believed me. Like me, they feel that they are just no good at writing short stories. I hope they change their minds because I’d love to see what they come up with.

Everyone will find their own path.

Just don’t sell yourself short.

Do you write short stories? What is your best method? Please share in comments below.


The most destructive inclination

It’s been written and rewritten. Hours and days and months years of work and now you really really like your story.

There might be a typo you missed. Maybe an awkward phrase you never noticed, but damn it is good, and you are tired of it. An agent or editor will understand. Nothing is ever perfect, right?

Only a writer knows how much work goes into even a short piece of fiction and how freaking redundant it gets to keep editing.

But while the writer may be DONE with a story, often times the story is not done.

In our exhaustion and our excitement, our inclination may be to release it into the world when we hit this point. What will be will be.

That inclination would be wrong.

Not only wrong, but counterproductive. If you submit work that isn’t up to par, your work will be rejected and that source will never again be available for it. If it’s bad enough you may be putting future submissions with that publication as risk as well.

No matter how done you may think you are, you need a second, third, forth and maybe even eight set of eyes. Because no matter how hard you have worked, your eyes are not objective. Typos and misspellings will hide from them. Plot holes and confusing sections will be filled in by your brain and elude your edits.

No matter how much work you have put into your manuscript, you will be blind to flaws. No matter how long you have done this, you need help. No matter how excited you are about the piece, you have to be patient.

Writing is a long game.

Rushing to submit will only make it longer.

If you have made it as perfect as you can, if you feel like you are literally going to scream if you have to work on it any longer, by all means, take a break! Send it to some trusted readers. Go work on something else.

But stomp on your inclination to release it to the publishing world. It could destroy your chances completely.




Write your first draft for you and your last draft for your reader

I think I’ve been having an existential crisis. Does that qualify as a good excuse for not posting recently?

I’ve been writing much more than average. I polished a final draft. I’m working on a bunch of short stories and really refining my process there. I’ve been catching up on reading. I’ve been brainstorming, outlining, working with other writers and really enjoying myself.

I see a lot of writers complaining about how hard it is to write. I don’t really feel that way. When I’m writing, I’m enjoying the hell out of every minute of it.

For me, editing has always been the challenge, but recently something changed. After receiving a lot of feedback from beta’s who just weren’t getting certain characters, certain elements, major themes, I began to think on how to refine my story to relate to them, rather than clutch to what I thought they should know.

And once I changed my perception, the edits began to flow more easily as well.

Writing a first draft would be a task or a chore if I was trying to make it fit into some sort of mold I thought people would like. It would completely sap any of the creative process I enjoy so much. I let the words flow, whether or not they adhere to the outline. I’ve stopped worrying about what people will think of it and so it comes more easily now than ever before in my life.

I write because I love it.

But when it is done, I want to share what I love with others. And so it needs to be refined to go out into the world. For me it starts tentatively, making the changes I see are needed and putting it out to a select few who’s opinions I trust. Gathering feedback until i can see what is not on mark with readers.

A book is a portal, and not everyone is going to have a key, or even want to open it no matter how hard you try, but if you collect the data and do the work, you can figure out a way to make that lock open for those who want to enter.

A writers first job is to write the story. To commit it to paper. There second job is to clear away the rubble so that story can shine brightly in the dark, provide a refuge to those who are seeking, a hand to those who are struggling, insight to those who want to know.

Write your story. And then give it away.

New Year and New Goals

Hello from the deep pits of manuscript edits. I have been down here a while and to be honest, my head feels a little funny. But the words are calling me and the changes are flowing.

Most important is that I am really pretty happy about being a writer at the moment. To the outside viewer it may seem that my career is stagnant. Nothing seems to be moving.

But those outside viewers are crazy wrong. Everything is changing. Everything is growing. These manuscripts I wrote two, three years ago are bursting into bloom, finally taking on the forms they were always striving to achieve.

I love my work and my work is flowing.

So last year I set a bunch of hard goals for myself. Get a publishing contract, get an agent, ect. Those things aren’t exactly out of the picture, but the biggest accomplishments of the previous year have been the people I’ve met, the collaborations I was a part of, the writers I’ve learned from and work I’ve written.

This year is starting out amazing. Myself and a group of extremely talented writers are putting together a kick ass anthology, we hope to have published before the end of the year. I have so many new stories in the works and TWO gorgeous completed and polished manuscripts that I am just so excited about, as well as a rough draft I am so excited to be cleaning up.

In the past I have hated edits. I have suffered through them and in return my edited manuscripts have reflected that suffering.

So my goals for this year is to just enjoy what I’m doing it. Because at the heart of it, that is why I am a writer.

Happy 2018. Hope yours is started out with awesomeness.

A Lesson on Forgiveness.

Happy New Year! I have started and stalled on many blog posts since 2018 has started, but this is one I feel compelled to share, even though it has nothing to do with writing and everything to do with life in the world we live in.

Today my children, three and six, were playing with blocks. They started to bicker, as siblings do. My son in a show of power knocked over his little sister’s tower. When scolded, he defiantly refused to apologize, so my daughter knocked over his tower.

It was only fair.

But now there were two angry and hurt children, with tears in their eyes.

It was only fair that since he knocked down her tower, she knocked down his.

And yet neither of them felt satisfied with the solution. Neither my son, who had been the initial aggressor, nor my daughter who had offered fair retaliation for the destruction of her creation felt any better now that their towers both lay in ruins.

I asked my children to forgive each other. To hug and make up and my son agreed but my daughter held out. I asked her why.

“Because my feelings are hurt. I’m very mad at him.”

“Even though you did the same thing to him?”


I asked my son how he felt about it.

“My feeling are hurt. I really liked my tower and she didn’t have to destroy it.”

“Even though you started it?”


“Would it make you feel better if you guys were friends again?”

They glanced at each other and back at me, their eyes wet as they both nodded.

Then, my daughter ran to her brother and wrapped her little arms around him and said “I love you.”

He hugged her back. “I love you too.”

The tears were gone. The hurt faded away and they both went on to build new towers  while I sat thinking about what had just transpired.

Even with a completely fair and equitable solution of mutual destruction, neither child felt good. Hurting her brother didn’t make my daughter feel any better about what he had done, although it was her first inclination to retaliate against him. When all the block lay on the floor, their creations in ruin, they were both even more upset then they had been in the first place.

My daughter didn’t need her brother’s forgiveness to feel better. She only needed to forgive him. The same with my son.

We don’t forgive to absolve those who hurt us. We forgive to allow ourselves to put down the burden of anger. It may not be our first inclination, but we are thinking, reasoning beings capable of more than instinctual reaction.

Anger, resentment, hurt feelings consume us, and block us from our greater aspects. When we let those things go, we are again free to build, create and move forward with our pursuits of happiness.


Checking in

For the last month I have been drowning in messages asking “Where have you been, Lindsey? Why aren’t you posting?” (Disclaimer: This is a fictional account of a non-existent issue. No one has sent me messages). And now I am ready to set the record straight.

I have been working my ass off.

Also it’s Christmas time and that’s kinda crazy busy for a mom.

And there have been some personal set backs.

But it’s all okay.

Because I have been working my ass off. And It’s been Glorious.

So, just in case there has been any mild curiosity, or there are other writers out there who are wondering about how to manage a blog when they are on a deadline, here’s what’s been going in.

I am taking another crack at edits for The Silent Apocalypse, which is now being completely overhauled, new title, new character and cleaning up beautifully.

I wrote and submitted a short story to an anthology that really liked it (yay) but decided to drop the project (boo). This was a personal challenge and victory for me however, because I really struggle with short stories and I had a short deadline to make it. I hope it will clear me up to write for some future anthologies.

I have a small group of writers I’ve been working with, bouncing ideas around and just having fun and we are discussing some future collaborations.

And again, I have been editing. This is probably the twelfth go at this novel but damn, taking so much time off in between really gives you some clarity. I am working as hard on this round of edits as I did the first go and I can see this baby sparkling. I have a specific submission deadline I’m working toward and then I will happily drop it off at the front door and move onto some other babies that have been calling me.

So the truth is, I have had little to give the blog recently. I was really excited to get and interview with Gary Buelher and earlier Lucas Mangum, and I will have some other reviews and interviews and hopefully some guest writers coming up in the new year. Blogging is fun and I’ve met great people doing it. But when the pile is high, the energy can only be parsed out so much.

So I hope to be back soon with some regular posts and a lot of crap about what I have learned. And if I don’t post again before 2018 I hope every enjoys their Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, Christmas, New Years and any other winter holiday I may have left out. Because I don’t care what you celebrate, as long as you are enjoying yourself.


Interview with author Gary Buehler

I met Gary in my first critique group. The soft spoken gentleman submitted short stories based on his life and transported our group back to a Philadelphia from the past. When I learned he recently published a collection of his short stories, I was excited to get a copy and interview him for the blog.

Gary is a lovely person, a supportive friend and a talented writer. His words do not just paint a picture. They immerse you in his world. His subject is his childhood, but his themes are universal.

Check out Gary’s book, Bits and Pieces on Amazon.

And keep reading for my interview with Gary.20171216_182132.jpg

Gary, what made you decide to release this collection?

It was never my idea to wait until I was eighty years old to get my book published. If any of the people along the way (who had promised to help get me published) had done anything at all, my book might have been published a long time ago. When I was in the final stages of getting Bits and Pieces published, I sent an email to one of those people. I thought or perhaps just hoped she would be happy for me. Her lack of a response would tell me all I needed to know. She couldn’t have cared less.

In the back of my mind for years I toyed with the idea of writing a book, but never seriously thought I ever would. At the time I was rather content just reading my stories at Open Mics. Instant gratification without any concern for run on sentences, misspelled words and improper punctuation is a writer’s idea of heaven.

My life was to change the day I joined the Mainline Writer’s Group led by Gary Zenker. The group had just published an anthology written by the membership titled “Unclaimed Baggage”. Anxious to learn more about the writer’s group I had just joined I purchased a copy. For the most part I was in awe over what I read. Down deep inside me I was a little jealous but never once thought I would ever be a good enough writer to have something of mine published. Several years later with dogged determination Gary Zenker wouldn’t leave me alone and kept insisting that I needed to put my stories into a book. He said he thought my stories needed to be preserved in something other than his sometimes inadequate memories of them. I was unaccustomed to someone like Gary with such a giving nature who didn’t make empty promises, I must admit I did wonder what his motives were.

Perhaps with a little kicking and screaming on my part I finally agreed to put some of my stories into a memoir. I hadn’t made it easy for Gary to gain my trust but he certainly did. He was my champion, mentor and good friend. Countless emails from me asking perhaps stupid questions must have had Gary asking himself what he had gotten himself into. To his credit he never lost patience (with pain in the ass me) and almost always answered my emails immediately. Gary was doing all the real work to get my book published and without him in my corner it would have never happened. All I did was to write the words.


What is your favorite story in the book?

Good question, but not an easy one to answer. My stories are like my children. As a parent I am supposed to love them all equally. If I must pick one story as my favorite it would be “In the Beginning”. Each time I read one of my stories I am somehow transported back in time as if I was experiencing the events for the first time. The few years I lived with my aunt Betty were perhaps the only time in my life where I felt unconditional love. Taking a line from the last story in my book “even at my young age I knew as long as I was with her, I had nothing to fear”. From a literary standpoint I think the best crafted of my thirty stories in the book is “Marvin and Me”.



You’ve received a great response so far. Your stories really resonate with your readers. Why do you think that is so?

Without any formal training as a writer the short answer is (it is a gift from God). Over the years my writing style has been compared with other writers. Some of whom are actually famous. Instead of giving my opinion I will defer you the Introduction that Gary Zenker wrote for my book, which I think hits the nail right on the head. I was flattered by Gary’s kind words, but I protested saying: “I didn’t deserve such praise”. When I shared Gary’s Introduction with friends they said the praise was well earned and for me think it wasn’t was just me being foolish.


My friend Gary Buehler is something special, as is this book

To me he is the Norman Rockwell of writers. An accomplished artist uses his or her canvas (in Gary’s case, words) to do more than merely create a scene; he transports the audience to a different time and place. Gary places me right into his stories as a close observer, just to the left or right of him as he recounts many of the events that have made up his life.

Anyone can describe the sound of a baseball bat hitting a ball in stickball or the smell of hay on a hayride using nouns and adjectives. Gary can make you feel the emotion behind the panic of a pre-teen hitting a ball that veers toward a building window and the angst of young love, sitting in the cart on the hayride, drowning in unrequited romantic feelings.

Many of Gary’s stories come back to me weeks or months after hearing them while driving in my car or talking with someone on the phone or taking a shower. They are the sleeper agents of story-telling. They make me feel – really feel – happiness, sadness, joy, hurt, surprise, regret, rejection and a dozen other feelings as surely as I had personally gone through the events he describes. And he does that all in the space where lit fiction authors are typically merely setting a scene.

Gary’s emergence as a writer came late in life. Maybe, in order to get these stories out, they needed to marinate… for a couple of decades. Many of them are not easy-to-tell stories and some distance was probably needed. Whatever the case, I am glad they are out now, collected and preserved in something other than my inadequate memories of his reading aloud at the writers group we both attend. I like the idea of being able to reread his exact words and time travel back to his world.

These are stories that you will want to read and read again. More than that, you should let your friends read them, as well. I think you’ll agree that something this ‘special’ is better shared.


Gary Zenker

November 2017


What is your writing process like? How do you get yourself writing?

My writing process is haphazard at best. Due to the diuretics I must take, a sound night’s sleep often escapes me.  On nights like that I sometimes just lay in bed waiting for sleep to overcome me. While waiting I often revisit the latest story I have been working on, doing mental edits. I often write them down on the back of old envelopes. When that becomes too cumbersome, I get up and sit down at my computer. The next thing I know the first rays of morning sunbeams are creeping into my bedroom. Another sleepless night that has become all too common. The upside is, on a good night I have added a few more pages to my story.

Guilt over not accomplishing anything worthwhile is usually what gets me writing. I am old school, believing that one must have something to show for the last twenty four hours. If not I feel that I am just being lazy. I dislike that feeling and will do whatever it takes to get rid of it.


Is writing something you’ve done all your life or did you pick it up at a certain point in your life?

Writing is probably something I have done since my first recollections of my life. First my writing was only mental. But back then my young mind was like a sponge that could retain a tremendous amount of information that I wasn’t likely to forget. Eventually (probably when I entered junior high school) I began writing things down in a composition book. In between I wrote letters to my brother Jack who was serving in the army. My life was nothing special, but I somehow I had the God given ability to make ordinary events of my humdrum existence sound interesting. Jack thanked me for my letters always adding that his army buddies who he had shared my letters with were eager for more. That was probably my first real audience. With the exception of my talent in art, I probably was never thought of as a gifted student. I preferred being seated in the back of my classroom where I hoped I was invisible and wouldn’t be called on. That was all about to change the day when my English teacher asked me to read a story I had written as a class assignment. Never being the sharpest pencil in the box, I wondered why she had called on me and no one else. After a day or two it finally dawned on me that I could write. That probably started the ball rolling to where I am now (a published author). I know I am, but I still find it hard to believe.


How did you develop your writing style?

It must have been through osmosis or perhaps some other process that I don’t understand. I like to think of my stories as being a one sided conversation with the reader. I endeavor to keep my stories simple and try to avoid confusing the reader with too many details. To keep a story interesting it must have some details. It is kind of like putting salt in a stew. That is a very fine line that to this day often confuses me.

I think my writing style came about mostly because of the public readings I do. The audience usually will often tell me how much is enough. When no audience is available I read my stories aloud for only me to hear. The lesson I learned from doing that is, what looks good on paper often doesn’t sound good when read aloud. There was a time when our long gone family dog Little Bear was my only audience as I read my stories to him. Perhaps he didn’t appreciate my stories, but he did love the sound of my voice.  There aren’t too many days when I don’t think of him. I miss him dearly.

Thank you so much, Gary.

Check out his book!

If you love a character, break their nose

L.C.W. Allingham

I recently read a great short story with a great premise and a great character and when I was done, I just wasn’t satisfied at all.

Because, while the conflict was there, and it was pretty rough, things kinda just worked out for the character. She never had to take a hard stance. She never really suffered. And so her victory was kinda boring.

It’s a weird thing, as a reader you like a character, you want them to succeed, you even might get mad at the author if they torture them too much. But you’ll probably like the story alot more if they do. Just look at the popularity of George RR Martin’s books.

It’s even weirder for the writer though, because you don’t just like your character. You love them. They are your baby, a reflection of yourself, and this completely alien unique entity all at once and…

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It’s not okay

After repeatedly telling him to stop grabbing my butt, I finally warned him. “If you do that again, I am going to punch you in the face.”

He thought it was cute. He thought it was funny. Some silly girl threatening to hit him for something as innocent as a little butt grabbing. We flirted from time to time after all, or at least he flirted and I tolerated it.

I was polite. I was friendly. We had mutual friends and I didn’t want to be labeled a bitch. I didn’t want to be left out because I had the audacity of basing my careful rejections on the fact that I just wasn’t interested. Fortunately I had a relationship I could blame our lack of hooking up on.

But the butt grabbing, that was too much. And after the first time, when I said it wasn’t funny, I didn’t like, it, cut it out, he kept it up. Over and over and over. All night I would be standing up from my chair, butt grab. Talking to a friend, butt grab. Pushing through the crowd. Butt grab.

So I told him. And he immediately grabbed my butt again.

And I punched him in the face.

Shattering my carefully maintained social standing. I was a bitch. I was a tease. I was words that I will not type here.

It shouldn’t have had to come to that. I should have done things differently from the beginning. I was young and still unsure how to navigate the world as a woman. There was a line you were supposed to walk if you wanted to hang out. Friendly but not too friendly. Pretty but not too pretty. Cool, but not too cool. Too much of any of these things set up certain expectations. Too little and you were a bitch.

And always I was the guard of these secret behaviors, unable to call them out in public because the blame rested with me. Even resorting to physical violence to defend myself was preferable to revealing these nasty little ways that the men around us, the men we thought were friends, were degrading, violating, and for many many women, assaulting.

Women have been trained to protect the men who have attacked us.

I’m a good bit older now and I am seeing all these stories come to light, finally! I am seeing women reject the fucking line. Refuse to keep the secrets of their violators any long.

Please keep it coming. Please shout it loud.


It’s not okay if they’re a democrat.

It’s not okay if they’re republican.

It’s not okay if they are older or younger than you.

It’s not okay if it’s just a little feel. It’s not okay if its a violent attack.

It’s not okay, no matter who they are, who you are, where you live and what you were doing.

We all own our own bodies. No one else has any right to them.

The end.


Losing steam near the finish line

I have been pushing for two weeks. Struggling the last couple days. Tonight I am calling it. My momentum on this work in progress has crapped out and although I am so damned close to done, I think I need to take a break.

I don’t want to write this anymore. Not right now.

For every paragraph I write, my mind is drudging up plot holes that need filling.

I still don’t have a perfect ending. And it’s the end.

I don’t even like what I’m writing now.

Now I will tell everyone who will listen the most important part of writing is to finish what you write. You can’t truly fix anything that hasn’t been completed to begin with. But when doubt starts to take over and nothing is coming easily, I have found that my best method is to just take a step back.

Wait for it to call again. Think on it. Work on something that excites you.

It’s not going anywhere.