Hey, Bayou Writers!
Dennis here, and I’m starting a semi-periodic post to our blog concentrating on the short story form, including flash and micro fiction, and, frankly, anything else that strikes my fancy.
A couple of meetings back, I highlighted the Nov/Dec 2014 issue of Writers Digest, which had an guest column specifically aimed at short story writers: Anne R. Allen’s article in the Inkwell column entitled “Short is the New Long”. I’ve been drawn to short stories for several reasons, chiefly: 1) They force you to be economical and precise in your writing, and 2) They allow for multiple experimentation in genre, style, voice, whatever, over a reasonable period of time. Even if you’re writing a novel and it’s taking you years, taking time off to write a few short stories can restore your creative juices.
So writing short stories can be good for your craft, but what if you want to be a published, author whose work people actually read? And pay for? Allen’s article addresses just this issue. Here is the “Readers Digest” version, but I urge you to check out the full column:
SHORT IS THE NEW LONG
“[Many writers equate] short fiction with those finger exercises piano students do before they graduate to real music. If you’re serious about a career in fiction, you write novels….right?”
“Wrong. Short stories are having a revival in the digital age….thanks to consumers who want quick bites of information… It seems the short story is back—on an iPhone near you.
“Here are nine factors working in favor of a short story renaissance:”
“1. SMALL, PORTABLE SCREENS ARE CHANGING THE WAY WE READ. ‘The single-serving quality of a short narrative is the perfect art for for the digital age…Stories are models of concision, can be read in one sitting, are infinitely downloadable and easily consumed on small screens,’ bestselling short-story writer Amber Dermont told The New York Times.”
“When Amazon in 2011 launched its Kindle Singles program—which publishes works of fiction or creative nonfiction of 5,000 to 30,000 words—it sold more than 2 million short titles in 14 months….Today, [Amazon is] further promoting short fiction with a Short Reads section…and Day One magazine, which showcases short fiction from new authors. (Find submission guidelines at tinyurl.com/pwc2lrj.)”
“2. ANTHOLOGIES ARE HOT. Multi-author anthologies are a great sales tool, and they’ve been reborn in the e-book space, where they’re inexpensive to put together and provide wide visibility.”
“3. PUBLICATION IDENTIFIES YOU AS A PROFESSIONAL. If you’re on a career track, you need to show agents, publishers, and reviewers you’re serious. Placing stories in respected literary journals will do that.”
“4. NETWORKING WITH SHORT FICTION EDITORS CAN FURTHER YOUR CAREER. Editors at small magazines often have connections in the publishing world.”
“5. FILMMAKERS BUY RIGHTS TO SHORT STORIES.”
“6. ONLINE RETAILERS FAVOR AUTHORS WITH MORE TITLES. The more titles you have in an online bookstore, the more visible you are.”
“7. SHORT FICTION CONTESTS CAN BUILD YOUR BIO. Contests are easy to find and enter in the Internet era….(fundsforwriters.com) and (winningwriters.com) are good free sources for vetted and free contests, and established publications (including WD) often sponsor competitions that provide opportunities for authors in all genres. A win or even honorable mention looks great in a query or bio. Some of the biggest awards…are still for short fiction, sometimes offering a prize as high as a standard novel advance, as do the Pushcart and O. Henry Prizes.”
“8. SHORTS KEEP FANS ENGAGED AND DRAW NEW ONES. Forward-looking agents encourage authors to self-publish short stories—especially when writing a series. Shorts keep fans interested while they’re waiting for the next book, and a free story in between is a great marketing tool. …a couple of shorts about your main character…may get you through a tricky spot in the big work and give you a salable product for laters. (Also, many great novels started as shorts. A story about a minor character may expand into a novel of its own.)”
“9. TODAYS SHORTS STORIES MAKE MONEY AND HOLD THEIR VALUE. Per word, a story can make more money than a novel. Not only does it take less time to write, …[it may sell for] the same price as a novel-length e-book…Some large magazines still publish short fiction, and such publications as Asimov’s, Ellery Queen, and Woman’s World still pay top dollar for genre stories…”
“Short stories…can keep your prose from getting flabby. Don’t give up your magnum opus, but try a few ideas out in short stories. You’ll be grateful you have inventory when opportunity comes knocking.”
[Anne R. Allen is the author of seven comic mysteries and co-author of How to Be a Writer in the E-Age: A self-Help Guide, written with Catherine Ryan Hyde.]
The full article may be found on pages 10-11 in the Nov/Dec 2014 issue of Writers Digest or on WritersDigest.com at