In praise of the short story…


Today is International Short Story Day ( – a celebration of the recent resurgence in the popularity of the genre, and a shot in the arm for story-telling in general.

When I first started trying to write as a teenager, I was thinking only of the novel.  And I bashed out thousands of words on my old manual typewriter before giving up.  The problem with novels is they’re…um….really long.  And take ages.  And when you’re a teenager, you tend to run out of steam before you get to the end (or even the middle).

With an eye for publication even in those days, I started trying to write short stories because I noticed you could sell them to magazines.  Most of them came back (probably because I was attempting to write for the woman’s market without actually having been one yet!), but when I stuck to writing about ponies for children’s magazines, they sold.  So, for a while I was happy to concentrate on the short story.  At least, more often than not, they got finished.

At the start of the MA, I was once again focused on the novel, but material to be taken to workshop had to be necessarily of around the 3,000 words mark.  Rather than rack up gazillions of first-chapters-which-went-nowhere-afterwards, I started to concentrate once again on the short story.  And I find I’m now a real fan.  Not only does the format still appeal to the lazy-streak in me (and sometimes the buzz from finishing a short story is just what you need to give you a lift when the novel is stagnating), but there’s a beauty in the snap-shot structure of the short story which allows you to tackle different subject matter than you might with a longer piece of work.

And there’s now an even bigger plus.  While traditional short story markets (the weekly and monthly magazines) appear to be in decline, and few publishers wanting to touch a book of short stories (unless you’re already somebody), the advent of e-technology is giving the short story a boost.  Perfect for the e-reader, for that daily commute on bus/train/tube, there are now outlets for the short story which never once existed.

And I for one say hoorah to that.  😉


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