Writing short fiction is something I enjoy and am good at. In my Deacon Chalk series there are the two novels out (BLOOD AND BULLETS and BLOOD AND SILVER)
and also two novellas. (THAT THING AT THE ZOO and SPIDER'S LULLABY)
*all titles are links if you wanted to go check them out at the big online retailer :)
Plus several short stories that are up for free on a few blogs that run from 500 words to just a smidge over 2000. (most of those are linked to on my website www.jamesrtuck.com )
There is one thing that I have found is KEY to writing short fiction.
YOU DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR BACKSTORY.
Seriously. Cut it. You write a 20,000 word novella then you are allowed ONE PARAGRAPH of backstory that can only occur after the first 10 pages. This is the LAW. Break it at your peril. Subject to fines and imprisonment up to 300 years. Possible beheadament ( is that a word?)
Obviously I am joking, but I am serious that in a piece of short fiction you do not have time for backstory. Keep it off the page. Hint at it, work it in with a sentence here and a sentence there, but you cannot have an info dump or an exposition in the form of a chunk of dialog. No one wants that in your short fiction. Editors don't want to buy it and readers don't want to read it.
When you write genre short fiction you are basically taking your characters and dumping them in an extreme situation that they have to react to. The whole of the story is their situation and their reaction, nothing more.
Here is a conversation between a writer and a reader about short fiction.
Writer: Do you want to know how they got in the situation?
Reader: Don't care.
Writer: What made them who they are?
Reader: DON"T care.
Writer: Where the monster/big bad/nemesis/chain of unfortunate events came from?
Reader: DON'T CARE.
Writer: How amazing the world/magic system/political intrigue is that I made?
Reader: OMG I DON'T FREAKING CARE!
Writer: But I did so much reasearch and made some really cool things.
Reader: Don't care.
The point is that in short genre fiction it is all about the entertainment. The fight, the turn, the moment things go south and how the main character deals. Save the rest of it for your novel. That's where the reader is sitting down to explore your creativity with you.
(And a short story/novella is NOT just something you yank out of your novel and plop it down for the reader. It still has to be complete in itself, not left dangling on both ends.)
So now for some picturey goodness to close us out and send you home, here is the cover for the third Deacon Chalk novel out March of 2013!
Ladies and gentlemen I give you BLOOD AND MAGICK!