It’s common practice for writers to cut their teeth on short stories. In many ways it’s understandable – take a wrong turn on a short story or give birth to a stillborn idea and you can start afresh with a minimum of time and effort down the drain. It’s not like reaching the 45,000 word point on a novel and realising you’ve hit an insurmountable wall. Little wonder shorts are seen as the novelist’s kindergarten.
There are two problems with this view. First, short stories are notoriously tricky to write. Far from being a canvass for the novice, they are the preserve of the master. There are a few to whom it comes naturally; for most it does not. It’s a world in which less is more, where every word is made to count and a single line brings a character or a scene to life.
The second problem, as any writer touting a handful of short stories quickly discovers, is publishers don’t like them. They’re hard to market, and unless an author has a loyal following, they tend not to do well. The mechanics of traditional publishing also work against the short story unless you have a neat collection the size of a novel, whilst the magazine market remains limited.
The digital revolution could change all this. It can’t do much to curb verbosity, but the technology does mean the mechanical restrictions on short stories no longer need apply. Like music, which used to be all about singles and albums – the one feeding off the other – people increasingly download the songs they like and leave the filler. We’re yet to reach the stage where a savvy reader can download an e-book minus the boring bits, but it does suggest the short story could be about to enjoy a renaissance.
Capitalising on this flexibility, Betimes Books is celebrating its first year with Gifts, our collection of Bittersweet Christmas Stories. There’s one by each author on the imprint. It’s a great way to have a look around the list, introduce yourself to some of the writers, see what you might like to explore more of.
Not only can you eliminate the hassle of choosing Christmas presents at a stroke, you can simultaneously impress your friends and family with your exquisite taste in literature…
Gifts is available to read as a free PDF or Mobi, as an e-book for £0.79/$0.99, or as a limited edition paperback for £4.79 directly from Betimes Books.
My novel Francesca is also available there or can be purchased directly here.