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Keeping ‘Em Short

April 9, 2010

An interesting thing happened on the way to this post. I’ve read voraciously my whole life, but I’ve never been much of a fan of the short story form. I don’t know what I was picking up before I started writing fiction but I typically found short story plots underdeveloped, with endings either too abrupt or too open ended for my taste (maybe both).

Recently, I’ve been working on an attitude adjustment. Conventional wisdom suggests that for first-time novelists looking to attract agent or publisher attention, literary credentials such as publishing short stories in magazines and anthologies can help move our queries up in the slush pile.

I do have an idea for a short story that happens to takes place here in Virginia, and while I’m noodling on it, I’ve actively started reading short stories again to better learn the form. Not surprisingly, I’ve had better luck getting into mystery short stories.

Laura Lippman is a new favorite, and her range often surprises me. Her stories can get pretty dark, which catches me off guard for another reason: have you seen the wholesome mugshot of her, with that broad, sunny grin, on the backs of her books? Could she really be writing some of those scary stories?

I’ve also been reading a lot of fellow authors from the Mid-Atlantic area, in particular, a series of anthologies by the Sisters in Crime Chesapeake Chapter, which I recently joined. I’ve greatly enjoyed what I’ve read from their first three collections. Their fourth anthology is out and the big launch party is this weekend (I hope to attend). And guess what? They’re calling for contributions to the fifth one. Only one requirement: the story has to be set in the Mid-Atlantic. Hm, maybe I should stop noodling and start writing?

Maybe you should too? Check out our own upcoming contest:

The Wicked team will be holding a unique contest this month. We’re asking our readers to try their own hand at writing 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.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 9, 2010 10:21 am

    Well, well, well. Another convert to the short story club. Welcome aboard. You might actually find that you like it.

    Great post and, please, get busy on that anthology submission.

  2. April 9, 2010 2:57 pm

    You and me both – I’ve written two flash fiction pieces, but have never done a short story yet!

  3. April 9, 2010 7:39 pm

    Hi, Supriya.

    Now I’ve seen the other end of the boat we are in!! I can certainly relate to your feeling that a lot of short story plots are underdeveloped. After I had finished “Gloria”, I (briefly) checked out a few UK publications and read their short story submissions. The majority, if not all, left me completely unimpressed. Where are the Chekovs of the 21st Century?

    The answer? They are locked in anthologies that take second place to novels (IMHO!) So long may we continue to work on our attitude (adjustments)! And good look with YOUR ENTRY into the 5th Sisters in Crime Anthology! 🙂

  4. April 10, 2010 8:49 am

    Glad you’re venturing back into reading short fiction. I sometimes wonder if adults turn away from short stories because of the selections we all had to read in school. There were some real snoozers in the many readers they gave us over the years. And do you remember the painful stories in the standardized tests we had to take. I used to skip the story, fill in the dots in an interesting pattern and move on to a good book. Yeah, those tests are measuring our kids education real well.

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