short stories

What Makes A Good Short Story (via: @huffingtonpost, @HT: @WritersCentreAU)

Heidi Pitlor, editor of The Best American Short Stories, shares some of her experiences reading thousands of short stories. She explains it's often easier to say what doesn't work, but nonetheless provides a summary of what does:

Here are some things I wish I saw more frequently: humor, genre-bending, humor, risk-taking, a more direct addressing of real world matters, humor.

Here are some things I'm always glad to read: loathsome, despicable characters (who says we readers all crave likable characters?); bone-scraping emotional honesty; a strange, off-kilter voice; unreliable narrators; surprise; a solid command of language; a story written with urgency and profundity; great, weird titles (titles matter); the assigning of language to something I have never thought about but should have. Humor.

There's some worthwhile insights here, so do read the full post if you like your short fiction: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/heidi-pitlor-/short-story-writing-advice_b_4059132.html

Short Stories vs Novels (Jon Towlson via @darkriverpress)

Jon Towlson writes two posts over at Dark River Press, comparing and constrasting short stories and novels. I've pulled two representative chunks out below, but the articles are more detailed than that, so do check it out. On short stories:

Many short stories fail because they are anecdotal. Even though the idea is bitesize, it does need to be dramatic. The situation itself can be quite mundane but that situation should be important and significant to the character. Strong writing creates empathy between the reader and the character in a short story and this helps to make the situation dramatic to us.

On novels:

The novel requires structuring into a coherent long form work, and this is one of the most difficult aspects of writing novels – formulating the plot line/s.  Specifically, many writers tend to hate working from outlines because they worry that they will lose the spontaneity in their writing. They worry that their work will lack sparkle if it is too pre-planned. This particularly tends to worry writers coming from short story writing who are new to novels.

I've written two novel-length manuscripts in my youth, one of which was even shortlisted for an 'unpublished manuscript' competition run by Random House back in 1998 (we had to dodge Velociraptors as we rushed from shelter to shelter, in those days). They remain unpublished, and as most first-time novel manuscripts, should probably remain so. Nonetheless, it's shown me that I'm much more comfortable with short stories, especially short short stories, and plenty of his examples ring true: I don't enjoy outlining and excuse my lack of effort in this area with the same vague excuses: 'oh, I just miss the spontaneity, you know?'

This is a personal disgrace. I should pull my proverbial finger out of my proverbial rear end and learn this skill. Writing doesn't just happen, you have to work hard at it. So maybe soon I'll throw some novel ideas around in my head and see what sticks.

Read part 1 here: http://www.darkriverpress.com/12/post/2012/03/shot-stories-vs-novels-part-1.html and Part 2 here: http://www.darkriverpress.com/12/post/2012/03/short-stories-vs-novels-part-2.html

e-Publishing and the Short Story Writer (via: @contextual_life)

Most of the talk I see about e-books relate to novel length work, or sometimes novellas. I can see such amazing new opportunity for short fiction sales in electronic formats, and am utterly confused as to why there isn't a better market for it. Short fiction is perfect for the .99c-and-lower impulse price point, as well as quick to read. Why can't we construct our own anthologies via the iBookstore, for example? David B. Coe writes:

Let’s look at some numbers:  A standard short story is about 6,000 words long.  (According to SFWA’s Nebula categories, a short story is anything up to 7,499 words.  At 7,500, we step into novella territory.)  A decent payment rate for a short story is about $.05 per word.  Some markets pay more; some pay less.  Using those numbers, a 6,000 word short would pay a writer $300.00, which is actually about what most writers can expect from each short story sale.

As a short story writer, I'd like to correct David here and state that what most writers can expect from each short story sale is actually between $10-$50 if you're lucky. BUT MOVING ON... </cynical>

But I don’t think there is any question that the growth of e-books and the proliferation of e-reading devices could easily create a new, vibrant market for short fiction writers.

And yet there doesn't seem to be one. I'm ignoring Amazon singles here: please correct me if I'm wrong, but that's just an ebook site sellings 'ebooks' that happen to be short story length.There is no short-fiction focus, in terms of supporting models (build your own anthology) or even subscription models (sign up to an author and get new fiction from them every month).

In an age when we desperately need new markets for the great short fiction currently being produced in our field, it is exciting to think that the trend toward e-publishing may open up new avenues for writers.

There is room for a dedicated electronic short fiction (and poetry) online store.

Don't make us build that ourselves, people!

Original here: http://www.sfnovelists.com/2012/02/23/e-publishing-and-the-short-story-writer/

The Art of the Short Story (via @stvgskll)

The Between Two Books blog discusses how the short story medium, especially in Speculative Fiction, is alive and well, and digs into the interesting self-perpetuating nature of the format:

Many of these markets get almost as many submissions from writers as they do readers. In fact, other than a few long-standing and notable exceptions, the majority of the reading audience to these anthologies and magazines are writers themselves. It’s a case of writers writing to be read by other writers.

I really liked this article. I'm mostly a short fiction writer, and the kind of large-volume-of-submissions work flow that Literarium is geared towards favours short fiction writers (and poets).

It wasn’t always this way. Many of the greatest literature figures, particularly in science fiction, fantasy and horror, made their name writing short stories. Edgar Allan Poe only ever wrote one novel and is best remembered for his shorts. H P Lovecraft churned out hundreds of short stories, while Arthur C Clark, Isaac Asimov, Harlan Ellison, Robert A Heinlein and Philip K Dick, all made their names writing shorts.

Check out the rest here: http://betweentwobooks.blogspot.com.au/2012/01/short-stories-are-alive-and-well-in.html

Some Short Story Tips - via @amanda_pillar

This is a recent article that Amanda Pillar, an Australian author and editor, posted last week. Literarium's tool set is focussed towards short fiction writers, mostly because compared to novelists they have a high submission rate and a lot of work flow to manage and track, so I thought this would be a nice bookmark to have.

Her quick list of Dos-and-Don'ts is a pretty good pocket guide for short fiction writers (and to be honest many of these things apply to writers across the board).

I'll add my own two entries (because I can):

  • DO be polite and professional in your cover letter
  • DO NOT act like a 4yo when your submissions are inevitably rejected

Have a read of the article here: http://amandapillar.livejournal.com/163492.html