Challenge,  On Writing

The Problem of a Writing Rut…

Especially with Short Stories…

I am not talking about writing short stories themselves. I am talking about a topic rut.

Honestly, never noticed this before now. I can get writing on novels and stay in the same topic for one or two novels before needing to break free and write something else. No issue. With novels could always tell when I was burning out on a topic or series.

I come back to topics and subjects all the time over years of time. No issue there either.

But had an interesting, if not short-term thing happen tonight. I didn’t want to write another cat story. I was burnt out on cat stories and that burn-out was translating to me just not being interested at the moment in anything.

At first I thought it was because I was just tired from the last few days of little sleep. But I rested all day today and honestly feel almost back to normal. So nope, not that.

And I’m sitting here going, “Wow, can’t be burn out on short stories in general yet. Only a week into the entire year.”

I knew it wasn’t that.

Nope, over the last seven short stories I wrote, all of them had been cat stories of one type or another. Pahket Jones character stories, a Bryant Street crime story with a cat, two romance short stories with cats.

Now I like cats, and I don’t need to write another cat story right now for any assignment, but my brain was going, “Nope. No more.”

So I went and played with some covers, thinking it through.

And it took me a half hour or so to figure out why and remember that burn-out feeling from topics or subjects of novel and apply it to a bunch of short stories in a row.

In fact, in my entire life, I have never written seven short stories in a row on the same topic before. Never needed to, so had no expectations after about 30,000 words plus of short stories on the same topic, I would be done with it.

So after 40 plus years of writing, learned something new tonight. Thought I would write it down here before going over to my writing computer and writing a short story. No idea what it the story will be about, but got a hunch it won’t have a cat in it.


  • Harvey

    I understand getting in a topic rut (been there, done that, with both series novels and short fiction). But I find myself wondering whether you ever write short stories in your Seeder’s Universe, maybe just to explore an event or character. With all the different worlds you write in, I can’t imagine you ever running out of topics or burning out on writing short stories.

    • dwsmith

      Nope, will never run out of topics or even series. And yup, at times I have written short stories in my Seeder’s Universe. And a bunch in my Thunder Mountain universes. And also a bunch in Cold Poker Gang and all the rest. Never short of areas. Just going to give it a rest writing about cats for a short time. (grin)

    • dwsmith

      Just move to another topic after a half dozen stories or more, then come back after you write other stuff for a time. Easy.

  • Philip

    Dean, this reminds me of your rule from Making A Living on Short Fiction: you have to be willing to write in many genres and I guess as you detail here, many different topics.