Canada Writes

5 things you should expect when writing short stories, according to Eden Robinson

The Son of a Trickster author tells you to expect the unexpected when writing.
Eden Robinson is an award-winning novelist and short story writer. (Chris Young)

Eden Robinson's novel Son of a Trickster was a finalist for the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Son of a Trickster is a fantastical coming-of-age story about a teenage burnout visited by strange apparitions, and was recently defended by Anishinaabe comedian Ryan McMahon on Turtle Island Reads

Her first novel, Monkey Beach, was shortlisted for a Governor General's Literary Award and Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2000.

Robinson, who judged the 2018 CBC Short Story Prize, shares five things about writing short stories.

1. You're going to make a mess

 "I have a very yappy muse. When I was writing Son of a Trickster — which began as a short story — I thought, 'I'll just overwrite and trim it back when I come to the final draft.' I let it run wild, let my muse friend run along anywhere it wanted to go. It's what I usually do for my first drafts, they're usually quite messy."

2. You'll try lots of different things

"I tried a number of different narrators when writing Son of a Trickster. When I landed on Jared, he just had so much heart. The more I wrote him into the story, the more I wanted to learn about him. And so, my 10-page short story became a 50-page novella and by the time it hit 100, I thought, 'You know, this might be a novel.'" 

3. You'll be scared — but you should do it anyway

"Sending your work out is scary. It is scary for all of us. Especially in the beginning, when you are not used to rejection or criticism. I spent a lot of time being rejected by different literary journals. Then, the next short story I entered into a fiction contest won!"

4. You'll learn to make word limits a strength

"Short stories are amazingly succinct. You can be lyrical, you can have muscular prose, but what stands out is the artist's vision of their world — how deeply and how much you can get into it given the constraints of the word count." 

5. You'll find a friend in deadlines

"Deadlines are fantastic! They are your friend. You have until Oct. 31 to submit to the CBC Short Story Prize. It doesn't seem like a lot of time, but it is doable. You can do this!"

Eden Robinson's comments have been edited and condensed. 

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