I’m one of those writers who loves the novel. It’s my preferred reading, and for the most part if I read something else--nonfiction or a short story-- it has to be exceptional for me to pick it up (or else required). That isn’t to say I haven’t read lots of nonfiction and short stories; but my love for both reading and writing has always firmly been in the novel camp.
And -- and I admit this in the smallest, pinkest of voices -- I don’t like the whole short story genre. It’s a prejudice grounded in absolutely nothing, probably fear. I have never written a serious short story and have pooh-poohed the format as one I wouldn’t write. This despite that one of my favorite authors, Marian Keyes, is a great short story writer and in fact says she started writing short stories when she started out. I read one of hers in a collection recently (obtained because hers was in it) and hers was well-crafted, clever, quick, and awesome in every way. In fact, it blew my mind and I thought if I could write a story like THAT, then it would be okay indeed.
But still, I stuck dutifully to my usual 85,000 word count novels. I like to draw the story out, I proclaimed. I like room to grow and tell, I said. I like to ignore the possibility of submitting a short story for publication somewhere, because that is a whole other game and I’m not prepared for it, I convinced myself.
And then last week I had a dream and insomnia, in that order. I woke up at 3:30 am and thought a moment on the vividness of the dreams I’d just had. I’ve always told myself fantastic stories in my dreams, and more than one has been the basis for a later story. But this night I was astounded to realize that I remembered the three dreams in detail and that they featured a a common thread while still being quite different. And I realized, I have a short story triptych on my hands! Yes! My short story writing fear can be conquered NOW! And then I fell back asleep and remembered nothing. Always. Always this is the way.
In the morning, I remembered the last of the three dreams very well. The second one I recall not so well, but enough to make up. The first is gone completely. So one evening, I sat down and wrote down the third one, with the goal of 1500 words. And it worked. I couldn’t believe it. It worked! I had a real short story on my hands! I did it and it’s there in first putrid draft state, without being edited and with problems, but ripe for revision into something viable.
Do you write short stories? Where do they fit in with your overall writing preferences? How do you approach them -- by genre, by theme, by word count? If you prefer writing novels, where does the short story fit in with your writing? As for me, although I still love the novel, I clearly need to know more about short stories, and I'm really glad I tackled this format!