Shannon McLeod on the Emotional Stability of Flash Fiction and Uncertainty of Novel Writing
In Conversation with Brad Listi on Otherppl
Shannon McLeod is the author of the Nature Trail Stories, available from Thirty West Publishing.
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From the episode:
Brad Listi: What about the actual writing of these stories? Do you have a ritual or were you just finding pockets of time? I know you teach, so I’m always curious to know how people get the work done.
Shannon McLeod: I have not been great at having a ritual of it lately, except for journaling in the morning, lately. But I’ll definitely go on stints of of having goals, especially over the summer, if I’m working on a novel. I’ll have a goal of writing a thousand words a day and making sure I write every day. And sometimes what comes out of that is good, and a lot of times it’s not. But typically with short stories, it feels more organic.
I’ll get an idea, and then I feel like I have to write it. I have the most fun when I’m writing short stories. So it’s really exciting to be able to put a collection out there because that’s when I really feel just captivated by the idea. And the need to write is when I’m writing a short story. Those I’ll tend to write whenever I have time.
Brad Listi: But I’m curious, does the short fiction feel better to you than trying to work in a longer form?
Shannon McLeod: Yeah, generally. Even my last book Whimsy, I kind of approached it like a short story collection, each chapter I wrote as if it were a short story. The other novels that I’ve written have felt a little bit more laborious. I guess that’s the nature of writing something more long form. You have to put more hours into it. So then when I’m working on a novel, that’s usually when I’ll prescribe myself a schedule. But short stories, I just kind of write when I feel like it. That is the beauty of having a day job and being a writer.
Brad Listi: Can you get a draft done in a sitting? Because some of these are pretty short.
Shannon McLeod: Yeah, like flash fiction. A lot of these are drafted in one setting. Easier to Convince, that last story we were just talking about, that’s the most recent one that I wrote and actually one that I wrote after I sold the collection. And I’m like, I’d really like to add this in, can I? And that took a while that I was working on for several weeks or maybe a couple of months over this past summer.
So that felt like it took more time and dedication and I really had to chip away at it. But it’s also a longer story. But I do really enjoy flash fiction and being able to sit down and crank out a whole story in one sitting, it’s a really thrilling experience.
Brad Listi: Well, it’s also like it’s nice to have a feeling of getting something done. I think part of the drag of writing, like a book length project or making a novel or a book length work of nonfiction is that you have to live in that state of limbo for so long of is it going to be a thing? Is it not going to be a thing? Does it suck? Is it good? It can become emotionally taxing.
Shannon McLeod is the author of the novella, Whimsy (Long Day Press, 2021). Her writing has appeared in Tin House, Prairie Schooner, Hobart, and SmokeLong Quarterly, among other publications, and has been nominated for Best Small Fictions, Best of the Net, and featured in Wigleaf Top 50. Born in Detroit, she now lives in central Virginia.