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The Short & Long of It (sort of)

April 6, 2010

While novels can get one on the book shelves of Barnes & Nobles, as well as the New York Times bestsellers list, one has to start somewhere.

Stephen King started with short stories and I still have my tattered copy of Night Shift somewhere. I love the Golden Age of Science Fiction with those great  short stories by Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Heinlein, Lester Del Rey and Isaac Asimov, among others.

Novellas fit in there, as well. What we called “books” as kids were, in fact, novelettes and novellas. And thank goodness. When my elementary and junior high schools were doing those reading contests to raise money for school field trips by seeing how many books you could read, it was fantastic that the books were only 40-50 pages.

When I began writing fiction, I went with short stories because I’d been exposed to them first. My intro to novels was Silas Marner, so you can see that reading long tomes would not pique my interest for a long time.

I love writing short stories. I have so many ideas I can’t keep up with all of them. Whether it’s walking through the mall, “relaxing” on set during a 14-hour film shoot or trying to get in and out of Publix without a plea for money from one of the many panhandlers, I think of new ideas for short stories.

Novellas sort of just develop when my short story refuses to end and I don’t feel like cutting and editing the hell out of it. It has gotten me into trouble   sometimes, like when They Call the Wind Muryah went over 17,000 words and couldn’t be entered into the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest (I trimmed it and received Honorable Mention Top 10% in 2007).

Ironically, I don’t like reading short stories as much. I used to, though. Too many aspiring authors are aping what’s popular in movies and YA lit (with apologies to Monday’s guest blogger Kerri Nelson). I can’t find a decent old-school vampire story anymore and the vampires-as-romantics has gotten old real fast (except for Viv, of course, CJ).

It’s kind of sad because I really used to read and review short stories on Writing.com. I made suggestions and awarded high gift points for good stories and smaller GP’s for effort and encouragement. Then, the stories got more and more monotonous and bad.

And believe me, I know about the subject. My early short stories were based on things like Godzilla, King of the Monsters, Star Trek and Space: 1999. Yeah, they were bad. Really bad. Cliched to the hilt. Characters more wooden than the Tracys and Brains on Thunderbirds. I haven’t even had the desire to go back to visit any of them again (though the fact that they were written in pencil on cheap, wide-ruled notebook paper in the 1970’s has a lot to do with it).

On a good note, I do want to get back to reading short stories again. I just want them to be readable. If anyone has any good suggestions, I’d be pleased to hear about them…

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…or I could just wait until April 20 and read all the entries submitted to Wicked Writers’ latest contest (see below):

The Wicked team will be holding a unique contest this month. We’re asking our readers to try their own hand at short stories.  Entrants submit a non-erotica short story under 3,000 words to wickedwriterz@yahoo.com by April 20th, 2010. First prize is to have your entry critiqued by three members on the team, the story will be posted here on the site, and you’ll be invited to guest blog with us in May! Second prize is a critique by two team members and to also have the story posted here on the site. Third prize will be one critique and an honorable mention.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 6, 2010 8:49 am

    Fun, going back through old short stories, especially the ones you wrote as a child. I remember being in sixth grade, writing short stories with friends and sharing them at recess. I wonder if this sort of sharing of stories has evolved into the teenage cell phone novels of today?

  2. April 6, 2010 9:41 am

    Quite possibly, Wendy. Though putting pen to paper seemed much easier than messing up your thumbs. Plus, our stories from childhood probably wouldn’t qualify for “sexting” or any of the other ill-advised things teens do with their cell phones.

  3. April 6, 2010 12:06 pm

    I must admit that I only got into short stories (writing them, that is) earlier this year. (I don’t count school, as I was never very good at english then!) Now, I can certainly relate to your enjoyment of the form. I agree with you that they are great for exploring ideas. In fact, I enjoyed writing my first short story so much, that I am planning to write a crime anthology around it!
    Thanks for sharing this, Greg.

  4. April 6, 2010 6:38 pm

    I’ve done some flash fiction pieces – where it had to be under 500 words. That was much harder than I thought it would be – more like a mini-snippet from a scene. I’m looking forward to attempting a short story.

    Might be a good way to introduce Viv’s dark past so she doesn’t seem so romancey. She’s a blood-sucking b**** just like the best of ’em! 😉

    • April 7, 2010 12:38 am

      That could work. It could be an anthology. After you do the major books, you could put together a bunch of short stories that would explain more of Viv’s past, as well as Rafe and a few of the others. I would especially love to find out how Viv’s staff came to be in her employ.

  5. April 7, 2010 11:33 am

    I have the worst trouble writing short stories but I love to read them. I just can’t get the story to end! I love the idea of doing an anthology though. I think “The Faery’s Tale” could use something like that since there are SO many characters involved in it! But we’ll see. I’m going to dust off one of my favorite short stories that I wrote a few years ago and submit it after a thorough polishing! So excited!

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