Thursday, 14 July 2011


I'm still at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, working hard. I got done what I needed to do, what I came here to achieve, so now I have space to freewheel a bit. Therefore, I am writing a new short story that occurred to me last week. It's exciting, starting something new but I also feel wary. What if it flops?

Then into my sightline pops this wonderful article called 'Beautiful Blasts' which is full of advice to short story writers from the super nice and talented Alison MacLeod (I met her in Cork at the Frank O'Connor Festival a few years ago.)

She says, 'You need to keep your nerve. You need to be willing to get it wrong.' OK, Alison, what else?

Answer: 'Don’t get obsessed by plot. Plot is just the vehicle that allows your character to unfold and to be seen. Avoid high drama.  Less will be more, I promise.' I like it!

Alison also says: 'We’ll see the struggle (whether comic or poignant or startling) of someone struggling to be more fully himself, to be more fully alive. Truth will flare on the page.' That is a gem - 'struggling to be more fully himself'.

She urges us to read voraciously. Which I do anyway. I'm back to short stories after a long spell with novels and am LOVING them. I am finding Nam Le's work extraordinary and am looking forward to Yiyun Li's new book which is on its way to me. I feel a good and proper short story binge coming on. Yay!

The whole article is worth one read, then two, then one more for luck. Thank you, Alison.


Kar said...

Well done on getting what you needed to do done!!

And good luck starting the new short story.

I'm fiddling with a story at the minute for my new group and am nervous as hell. Hopefully Alisons words of wisdom will help.

Thanks for the post.

Jo said...

Thanks for this, Nuala! Some fantastic advice from Alison here. I keep vowing to go back to short story writing after a long spell working on the novel. I've also allowed my short story reading to elapse (apart from Yellow Room submissions), which I'll have to address.

Tania Hershman said...

I for one am delighted to hear you are back on a short story spell, I can't wait to see what arises from it. Great article by Alison, I am really looking forward to hearing what she says about short stories at ShortStoryVille here on Saturday, wish you were here - but it sounds like you're having a marvellous time!


Kar - good luck! I understand the nerves - very normal :)


Jo - ditto. When I write novels, I love to read novels. Not exclusivley but mainly. It's lovely to be going back to the old friend of the short story.


Tania - I would LOVE to be at that. Sigh. But it all goes well here nad for that I am grateful. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy and say hello to Alison from me :)

Oscar Windsor-Smith said...

Hi, Nuala. I'm so pleased that I happened upon your post. I've been writing short fiction for quite a while but I find great difficulty in spotting where things are going wrong in my own work. At present I'm revisiting my 'back catalogue' in the hope of learning from my own mistakes. Your timely link to Alison's excellent advice is exactly what I needed.

Serendipity is wonderful, isn't it?

Thank you, and Alison.


Oscar x


Excellent, Oscar. I'm sure Alison's words will be useful. Serendipity is amazing!
I have an article called 'So you want to write short fiction?' here which may also help:
(You may have to copy & paste the link into a new window)

shaunag said...

This is uncanny timing as I am currently hopping from new story to story without completely finishing because of the fear of the flop...thanks, Nuala, for sharing and thanks, Alison, for writing. Shauna.


Glad to be of help, Shauna :)
John McKenna, at a CW class of his I took, said, 'You will learn more by finishing one story than by starting ten.' I really took that to heart and try to live by it.
See you at dinner :)

Oscar Windsor-Smith said...

Thanks, Nuala, for that extra link to more of your excellent advice.




Most welcome, Oscar :)

jchilimo said...

you will love "Gold Boy, Emerald Girl" ! just finishing it. deep, graceful and surprising. have fun on short story binge!


Oooh, yes, I can't wait jchilimo. I read her first collection and it was sublime. The stories still haunt me - talk about making you ache!

jchilimo said...

Nuala, you will love "Gold Boy, Emerald Girl" I've just discovered a new to me author Chris Adrian "A Better Angel"--great, great short stories--a must read for you!