Second in my series on my writing short stories are a medium that I’ve only considered in the past couple of years. I have more practise with these than flash fiction, but what surprises me, when I look back, is that a lot of my short stories are erotica.
Short stories, on several different websites, are defined as complete stories with a word count between 1,000 and 7,500 words. With word counts like this there is far more freedom that in flash fiction, but you must still be able to tell a story in a concise fashion.
When I look at my novels, but the time I reach 7,500 words, I have only just reached the peak of the first major plot hump. I have time to play around and give fancy, expansive descriptions of whatever is happening and to fully immerse the reader in the world I’ve created. Short stories do all that, but much faster.
I’ve read quite a few short stories recently. I’ve been working through several anthologies (they’re a nice sort of book to work through when your reading time is vastly reduced) and the style of writing is of a level of sophistication I’m yet to reach.
What also characterises short stories, at least in my experience, is that they are written with a unexpected twist or a clever plot point that wrong foots the reader. The promise of the story is there in the first few lines, or in the first paragraph, but it isn’t always what you expect it to be. This is where the sophistication comes in; to be able to, in essence, trick your reader, without pissing them off. Of course not all short stories are like that. Some of the erotic short stories I’ve read are just that (or badly written porn), short and sweet insights into an event in a character’s life.
I used to wonder how one could possibly hold a reader’s interest with such a teasing length, but I’ve since discovered that the market for it is growing. At the bottom end of the 1,000 to 7,500 spectrum, there are still magazines out there looking for stories to fill gaps. And a lot of the open anthologies I’ve looked at recently have maxed out at anywhere between 3,000 and 6,000 words.
My own short stories are far more ranged, than my novels. Erotica, fantasy, horror, thriller, comedy, stream of conciousness; all of these I have, at one time or another, coaxed into a story too small to be anything but a Short Story.
The necessity for these to be so much tighter (probably more so than flash, since the additional words trick you into thinking you have more space than you do), means that I have lots of first drafts sitting on my laptop and desktop waiting to be given a home. Some were written specifically for anthologies, while others are based on peculiar dreams or conversations I’ve had. Some are even piece of homework from the Phoenix Writers that I have expanded into something longer because I loved the idea so much.
At this stage of my writing career, much like flash fiction, short stories are a fine way to ensure that I keep writing and making submissions. They are clearly easier (in terms of time spent) than a novel, and it is possible to do one a month (from first draft to completion) in a way that I simply can’t tackle novels right now. While I don’t exactly have any plans to self publish short stories, there are always people looking for them and markets I can send them to.
I don’t have any samples of short stories for you at the moment, though I’m pleased to say that’s only because all of the stories that are fit for public viewing, have been submitted to one competition or another. While this is the case, I’m not allowed to post them on a public blog. However, as these deadlines come and go, don’t doubt that I’ll give you updates on how I’ve done.
So… most of you, I understand to be novelists. Have you ever tried your hand at short stories? Do you think there’s a market for it? Is it a skill set you’re looking to develop or are you happy with novels for the time being. Join the comment stream; let me know what you think!