Today, I’d like to welcome author JPC Allen!
I greatly enjoyed her first published short story, “Debt to Pay,” a part of the anthology From the Lake to the River. It was filled with fascinating characters and lots of good suspense and mystery. Her second, “A Rose from the Ashes” has just been published- but I’ll let her tell you about that, as well as giving your her advice on “How to Write a 10,000-word Short Story in Two Weeks and Not Lose Your Mind!”
Last December, I was faced with creating a 5,000-word short story that actually made sense in two weeks. While I got ready for Christmas, taught Sunday School, and prepared for a visit from my in-laws. And I don’t write fast. It took me years to get my YA crime novel in shape.
But I decided to go for it. I met the deadline, wrote a 10,000 word short story, got accepted, and my YA mystery, “A Rose from the Ashes”, was published in Christmas Fiction Off the Beaten Path on October 1.
If you face a tight deadline, the lessons I learned may help you.
- Know your ending before you start.
I wasted one whole day because I wasn’t sure what the theme of my story was. I wrote fourteen pages that were pretty much worthless. Once I knew the theme and how it would end, I directed all my efforts to reaching that conclusion. If my writing seemed to be veering away off course, knowing where I needed to end up got me back on track.
- Write a synopsis.
“A Rose from the Ashes” is about nineteen-year-old Rae Riley investigating who tried to kill her pregnant mother twenty years before and if the attacker is the father she’s never met. Because my mystery hinges on a twenty-year-old cold case, I wrote out exactly what happened, like book report. Then I could keep straight what Rae knew and what she had to discover.
- Tell your story to someone.
After I’d wasted a day, I sat down with my husband and told him my story. I am blessed to be married to an engineer. He looks at my plots logically, which is so important when writing a mystery. He was able to tell me what made sense and what I needed to work on.
- Write the basic story.
My first draft was getting down on paper the bare bones of the story. If inspiration hit for a description, I threw that in, but the point wasn’t to write well. I just wanted to write the story from beginning to end and see how it hung together.
- Rewrite with description
After I got down the basic story with the basic plot, I rewrote it with the idea of adding descriptions, both for characters and settings. I did this several times because each time I read through the story, I saw places that needed fleshing out.
- Ask readers, not writers, to read your story
Writers read a story differently than non-writers. Writers usually read with their professional hats on, diving into all the technicalities of the writing craft. While I needed to put my story under that kind of scrutiny later, what I really needed was how my story appealed to regular readers, who read simply for enjoyment. I have a good friend and several relatives who love mysteries. I asked them to read my story for things that didn’t make sense or made them pause. Two of my sisters read a description they took for an insult. That wasn’t my intent at all and completely changed the nature of a character. So I changed the description.
- Get a handle on your main character.
This should probably be #4, but I didn’t get around to it until late in the process. I wrote the story in first person. My mind was so deeply rooted into my main character that I didn’t realize I wasn’t putting all those thoughts and feelings on the page. After several drafts, I realized Rae was the sketchiest of all the major characters. I needed to get a handle on her, a way to sum her up. I enjoy photography and thought amateur photographer was a good way to describe Rae. It covered how she responded to settings and saw the people around her.
Have you faced a tight deadline? What lessons did you learn?
Thanks so much for visiting and sharing your lessons with us today, JPC, and thank YOU readers for stopping by!
As part of this new story’s release, JPC Allen is holding a book giveaway on her site! Today is the last day to enter- Click here for details.
Christmas Fiction Off the Beaten Path
Not your Granny’s Christmas stories …
Step off the beaten path and enjoy six stories that look beyond the expected, the traditional, the tried-and-true.
Inspired by the song, “Mary Did You Know?” – a mother’s memories of events leading up to and following that one holy night. MARY DID YOU KNOW? By Patricia Meredith
A young woman seeking her own identity searches for the man who tried to kill her and her mother on Christmas Eve twenty years before. A ROSE FROM THE ASHES. By JPC Allen
Princess, tower, sorceress, dragon, brave knight, clever peasant – combine these ingredients into a Christmas-time story that isn’t quite what you’d expect. RETURN TO CALLIDORA. By Laurie Lucking
Anticipating tough financial times, the decision not to buy or exchange presents leads to some painful and surprising revelations for a hardworking man and his family. NOT THIS YEAR. Sandra Merville Hart
Years ago, a gunman and a store full of hostages learned some important lessons about faith and pain and what really matters in life – and the echoes from that day continued to the present. THOSE WHO STAYED. By Ronnell Kay Gibson
A community of refugees, a brutal winter, a doorway to another world – a touch of magic creating holiday joy for others leads to a Christmas wish fulfilled. CRYSTAL CHRISTMAS. By Michelle L. Levigne
JPC Allen started her writing career in second grade with an homage to Scooby Doo. She’s been tracking down mysteries ever since. A former children’s librarian, she is a member of ACFW and has written mystery short stories for Mt. Zion Ridge Press. Online, she offers writing tips and prompts to beginning writers. She also leads writing workshops for tweens, teens, and adults, encouraging them to discover the adventure of writing. A lifelong Buckeye, she has deep roots in the Mountain State. Join the adventure on her blog, Facebook, Instagram, or Goodreads.