Sunday, June 14, 2015

For the Love of Short Stories

Thirty-five years ago, I began my career by writing short stories. I thought that if I started on something short, I had a better chance of finishing and submitting work. I learned a lot about writing succinctly and the constructive criticism of editors who eventually published my work really helped. I also read numerous short story magazines and collections. It was a great education before I turned to novels. When I found a publisher for my Casey Holland series, I stopped writing short fiction altogether. Frankly, I’ve missed it, so I plan to start again while also tackling novellas. I love short stories, always will. While some say that they don’t sell and aren’t widely read, others maintain that short fiction is a good fit for busy readers who don’t want to take the time to invest in a 350 page book. It makes sense to me.

While mulling over what to write, a couple of colleagues suggested that I work on pieces featuring my novels’ protagonists. They said this could be a great promotional tool for the books and help boost discoverability. Will it, though? I’ve read conflicting opinions about whether short stories sell by themselves, so I’m still trying to figure things out.

This week, I read an interesting piece in The Guardian about Comma Press, a publisher that is launching a self-publishing platform for short stories, essays, and poetry in text and audio versions. Writers can upload their work and tag it in appropriate categories. The piece doesn’t mention anything about payment, which is something to consider. The platform, known as MacGuffin, will provide visible stats as to how many times the piece is read, if it is finished, when the reader stopped, and so on. In other words, the author might also be subjecting themselves to fair, or possibly unfair, criticism.

This method of showcasing one’s work isn’t new. In fact, websites and other forums have been posting stories for feedback for years. The author of The Guardian piece thinks this is innovative idea because it will enable Comma Press to directly mine more detailed information from customers. Again, I think that some publishers have been doing that for a while now.

In any event, I’m happy to see that short stories are being given more platforms. Short stories are just as capable as giving one a satisfying reading experience as a novel and don’t allow room for the padding that reviewers often complain about in larger books. If MacGuffin helps raise awareness of short stories, then maybe that’s a good thing. If you know of other platforms, websites, and forums devoted to short stories, I’d love to hear about them.

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