To the non-writing person, a short story probably sounds easy to write. It’s short, therefore you don’t need to write much.
It is because this type of writing is short that we love and fear it in equal measure.
Jump on the short story rollercoaster. It may be a short ride but it’s certainly bumpy.
Ooh, Not Much to Write!
I remember the first time I wrote a short story. It was an exciting proposition because I didn’t have to write much at all.
It certainly wasn’t a novel. It almost felt a bit naughty to take this option instead of the thousands of words and eons a novel requires.
Then I started writing.
Which brings me to…
Aargh, Not Much to Write!
I am a wordy madam. I love words. They are in my DNA. They sweat out of my pores and my gob.
My brain loves zapping them into my fingers, bashing them at the keys, and on to the page.
Short stories require an economy of words.
It has taken time to learn how to write the first draft of a short story without it being a saga.
Editing is a bitch at the best of times. Culling words from eleventy billion to a few thousand is excruciating.
It’s not killing my darlings, it’s severing limbs. Stephen King would approve of that too.
How Short Stories Are Received
When I was a young ‘un, short stories weren’t popular. Sure, we had them in the classroom but most of the time we were encouraged to read novels.
In England, short stories haven’t been a wide-selling form for a while. That’s not to say we don’t read them but rather that the novel has always been a bigger seller. Maybe people want more book for their money. Quality over quantity for me though.
Short story collections appear to go in and out of fashion. Apparently they are having a resurrection now. How long that will last, nobody knows. Fashions in reading often change.
When I started writing I noticed how many fellow writers write short stories. It is the province of many a writing competition. We can submit a contained piece of our writing for judgement and not take up too much of the judge’s time.
Short stories are an art and a skill. They can be hard to write too. It’s a shame they are often seen as the poor cousin to wordier pieces.
The Beauty of the Short Story
The novel is like a cluster of diamonds adorning the neck.
The short story is a single solitaire, sparkling in its own right.
To encapsulate a plot, characters, mood, themes, and setting within a short piece requires careful handling and a way with words.
The short story is immediate and can pack a punch.
The novel is the marathon where we negotiate the winding path and work our way to the end.
The short story hurtles us to our destination while not allowing the scenery to blur as we move along. That requires immense skill on the writer’s part.
A short story is a thing of beauty. It contains only the best words to encapsulate a short moment in your reading time.
Why I Keep Writing Short Stories
I love the freedom they give. I don’t often plan short stories in much detail. For novels, I am the perfectionist plotter.
I’ve often written short stories with only a germ of an idea and watched my fingers fly over the keyboard. It’s liberating.
Short stories are a challenge when I have so many ideas and a plethora of words, desperate to burst forth. They rein me in and teach me how to be concise. This really helps with editing novels!
I’ve started using short stories to go into more depth with my novel. The novel is based on a 1980s council estate. There are many minor characters.
After writing it, I felt I wanted to get to know some characters in more depth. I’ve loved the setting and the nostalgia too.
I’m currently writing a collection of stories for separate characters that live on the estate. It feels like I’m writing a soap opera with a different episode for each character. I’m really enjoying it.
Short stories are little, complex breaths of creativity for me, among the minutiae of editing, revising, and spending long periods of time immersed in one work.
Each short story is an exhalation of a new idea and an outburst of imagination.
Over to You
Do you write short stories? What do you like or not like about them?
Do you prefer writing novels or short stories?
Do you read short stories? What do you like or not like about them?
Do you choose to read novels or short stories?