Monday, 23 January 2012

Life's Too Short?

Last week, my mum sent up some cuttings from the weekend papers, as is her wont. We don't really have papers in the house, not having time to read them. She had earmarked a feature in the Telegraph Review for my attention. It's all about the place of short stories in the modern literary landscape - they're apparently enjoying "a remarkable renaissance" due to their wide availability, often for free, on ezines, blogs and so on.

They can certainly be a great way for new authors to showcase their wares, particularly if they haven't yet got a novel ready, as anyone can obviously release a single short story or a collection on Kindle. Traditional publishers wouldn't touch a book of shorts by an unknown writer with a bargepole. And it's much easier for writers to hone their skills with the help of the internet. I cut my teeth on the great free site ABC Tales, where writers give critiques on each others' work. Some of those I polished on the site were later published.

If you want a shot at something nice to put on your CV, I think you could do worse than have a look at the Telegraph's Short Story Club. Each month this year, you can submit a short story of up to 2000 words - anything you like, there are no themes. There are weekly columns discussing technique and offering writing exercises. One winner is chosen every month to appear online, and at the end of the year all 12 winners will be invited to a grand lunch in London with bigwigs from the paper and a top agent and publisher. Sounds exciting. Obviously, this will favour UK writers more - there's no mention of covering international airfares. Then one overall winner will be chosen, presumably over some tasteful canapes, to receive £500 and publication in the Telegraph.

Sound like something you'd be interested in? Anyone know of any other good short story-based initiatives, maybe on a more international basis? And what's your view on where the short story is at in the business right now?


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Visit Milo's blog, In Media Res - he has a huge list of places that accept short stories and pays for them.

Trisha said...

Oooh, that's cool that there are no required themes for the short story submission!

Stu Ayris said...

That's really interesting stuff Nick. My brother and his pals are always writing short stories and they are a fantastically talented bunch! I will put a link out to your blog!!

Hope all is well mate!


Tina said...

Thanks for the heads up Nick. I found you through Stuart Ayris.

Shallee said...

I think short stories are always valuable. I think they're great for writers to break into the market, as well as having a market of their own. I'm not very good at writing them, though I've written lots of them in the past. I do love reading them, though!

Nick Wilford said...

Alex - Thanks for the tip. I hear Milo is a bit of a maestro when it comes to publishing stories!

Trisha - I know, I always panic with themes - it's something I've never done actually, but I can see how it would be a good exercise.

Stu - Thanks pal! You can definitely count yourself among that talented bunch. And you should all check out that competition - nothing ventured eh?

Tina - Nice to meet you! Stu's a lovely chap isn't he?

Shallee - Nice to meet you as well. They can be a tough nut to crack. I think the thing to realise with short stories is, perfection doesn't exist. I love reading them too!

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

It's handy there are no themes for the Telegraph. On top of the CV, short stories are also great for honing writing and editing skills.

Golden Eagle said...

I like the fact there aren't themes--it certainly opens up a lot of options!

I think short stories are a good way of getting publishing credit and testing the waters for the type of fiction you write.

Mark said...

There's so many ways to put short-fiction onto the internet nowadays, but it's hard to tell what works better and what doesn't, but I guess that's part of the fun:)

Shannon Lawrence said...

I hadn't realized the short story had fallen by the wayside. I've actually put my novel aside to get back to writing short stories to try and get some published and out there. I'd forgotten how fun it was to write a short story, especially as my novel is fantasy and my short stories horror (horror will always be my first love, even though I've come to love fantasy, as well). I do admit that I fell behind on my usual horror and fantasy anthologies, but am catching back up with them now.

Just in case you don't see my response on the A-to-Z blog, I thought I would repeat it here for you since I was delayed in responding:

"Nick, that's a good question. I think it entirely depends upon how you want to do it. Will it be fun and exciting to bring people in on it (for instance, Damyanti solicits help from her followers to help pick prompts for her) or will it be more fun (or easier) to just spring it on them when it's time?"

The competition sounds great. I wonder if I couldn't time one of my hubby's business trips out there if I was actually a finalist.

Shannon at The Warrior Muse, co-host of the A-to-Z; we're gearing up for the upcoming 2012 A-to-Z Challenge!

Nick Wilford said...

Lynda - Yes I agree, they are brilliant practice. A lot of people think they are harder than a novel, but I've had the opposite experience!

The Golden Eagle - That's a good point - you can try out a few different genres in short stories to find the one that would work for you in novel length.

Mark - The good thing about having short stories online is the instant feedback that's available.

Shannon - I think it's great that short stories are coming back, though I think it would be nice if "traditional" publishers were more open to stories from new writers.

Thank you for answering my question. I think I've decided to keep the element of surprise. I don't really need people to help in advance, but I am hoping that people will respond to the theme and expand on each post in the comments.

Luanne G. Smith said...

Hi Nick. Wish I was better at writing short stories. And I agree with Alex. Milo is the man when it comes to knowing where to submit the short story fiction.

Jessie Humphries said...

I admire people who not only take the time to write a short story, but know how to do it! I haven't ventured for one since college I think.

Nick Wilford said...

LG - I really do recommend ABC Tales to anyone looking to improve their stories. I admit I haven't posted on there in over a year, but they are a helpful, friendly bunch - and not cliquey as some forums can be.

Jessie - I'm not sure I really know how to do it either! There's no perfect technique. But I've picked up a few pointers here and there.

Lydia Kang said...

Hi Nick, nice to meet you and thanks for stopping by my blog. :)

I know several writers who are building up their writing resume by getting short stories published. It's a great way to build your credentials.

Valentina Hepburn said...

Hi, Nick. Thanks for visiting my blog. It's lovely to meet you. Short story writing is an art in itself and a good way to to build a CV and a following. Thanks for sharing.

Stu Ayris said...

Nick! I just wanted to thank you for the review on Amazon!! You are one top bloke!



Nick Wilford said...

Lydia - Nice to meet you too. Yes, it can only look good if trying to get a book deal.

Valentina - Yes it is an art, so different from writing a book!

Stu - No problem mate. Interview questions are still coming your way - I'm not exactly organised at the minute!

Julius Cicero said...

Thanks to technology, there are so many more opportunities for no-names to establish themselves. The old establishment has choked off so much talent and ignored so many stories because writers did not adhere to certain rules or nuances. Creativity comes in so many forms that the freedom to do it has created new markets, in art particularly.

Nick Wilford said...

Julius - Yes, I think it's great that the internet is there to give us more opportunities to make a mark. It might be a bit hit or miss, but then everything's subjective. I think the freedom is the best thing about it.

Brenda Sills said...

What an interesting post. The lack of short story collections is lamentable—I enjoy the quick satisfaction of reading a mini-novel. In reading the century old, short story books I own, I've relished getting lost in their strange and intriguing worlds. And how splendid that we have so many short story options available on the internet today. Hopefully, the publishing industry will favor publishing short stories again. Thanks, Nick!

Brenda Sills said...

Hey, I tried to join your blog but I got a message that said: We're sorry… We were unable to handle your request. Please try again or return a bit later. So I will! :)

Nick Wilford said...

Brenda - How fortunate to have those old short story collections, that sounds nice. I'm glad you managed to sign up - Blogger doesn't make things easy!

Laura Louise Cox said...

This sounds really good, I'll definitely have to check it out!

Thank you for bringing it to my attention :)

I love short stories, I'm certainly not at novel level yet so I like to short it out as often as I can.


Nick Wilford said...

Laura - I'd like to get back to writing some. I'm not in the Telegraph thing ATM, but I might join in later in the year. I want to finish my novel and find it hard to switch to something else!

You should go for it, just winning one of the monthly prizes would be a good feather in the cap.

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