Early in my writing life, and after my first novel was published, I felt certain I would never be able to write a decent short story. For a few years, I didn’t even attempt one because I couldn’t see how I could cut back on my word count to create a good story. Today I have seven short stories published along with two magazine articles. I look back on how I used to think about shorts and wonder what in the world was going on in my head. I think mostly it was fear. How did I get over that fear to move on to short story writing? I didn’t force myself into writing one just to do it because I knew there would be no creativity there, and no passion. I began to read a lot of short stories, paying close attention to their structure and pacing. It was the key to allow myself to let go of that fear, let my creative mind wander in that direction, dreaming up a multitude of ideas.
Typically, short stories focus on a single incident, have fewer characters, and cover a brief period in time. It’s a story that can be read in one sitting while snuggled in an easy chair with a favorite beverage. Edgar Allen Poe was a master of the short story, and Kurt Vonnegut, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Ernest Hemingway were highly accomplished in the form of short story writing. When those half-hour radio shows were popular, it was the short story that brought them to life for that audio world. The legendary Fables (or Parables) can’t be left out; these shorts have been used through the span of time to enlighten and entertain readers, their messages staying with us forever. There was Aesop, Geoffrey Chaucer, The Brothers Grimm—familiar names that stir emotions within as we remember their stories.
On the publishing side of the short story market, it does seem to have dwindled over the years. Stephen King wrote about this in an article a couple of years back (SK Article). But as he also said, there are those that are still passionate about the short story whether writing them or reading them. We need to keep that passion alive. The magazine market and anthologies are the best places to submit, and many established authors put together their own book of shorts. Word counts for short stories can vary a lot! I’ve seen 20,000 words or less, and almost always at least 2,000 words. Always check the writing guidelines before submitting. A great place online to check for short story markets is Duotrope Digest.
Short story writing is an art that is well documented throughout our literary history. Let’s continue to buy, read and write them. In a world where so many of us have limited time for anything past work or parenting, let’s take a few minutes to grab a pad and pencil, a magazine or an anthology and get lost in another time and place. It’s amazing how that little trip can refresh the soul.
My Best to All,
2 years ago