Friday, July 19, 2013

The Glory of the Short Story

The creation of the short story is a dying art. It’s being killed off by an unwelcoming market and dwindling audience. Publishers (especially print, but also electronic) shy away from accepting short story submissions, since they aren’t nearly as popular and lucrative as novels. It seems the only authors publishing shorts are the well established writers who have already proven their marketability, the desperate authors who offer their shorts for free, and the smattering of authors who enter and win short story contests.

I find this tragic. As a reader, I dearly love devouring short stories, quick reads that usually have some insightful impact or delightful twist. Shorts seem to pack more of a brutal punch than longer works, probably because they’ve got a lot to say in a tiny space. There’s no getting used to the characters, settings, and plot pace—it all comes at you at mach speed and whirls you along for the ride. As a writer, I revel in the challenge of creating shorts. Can I get the reader involved and engaged in the characters and plot in such a confined word count? Shorts also give me a chance to get out my creative juices when my longer works have me temporarily stymied.

But what are short story writers to do when the current market has such a strong bias against shorts? Write nasty letters to the publishers? Well, that might release a therapeutic amount of hostility, but it won’t change that downward trend—no one responds well to anger. Instead of writing letters to publishers as an author, try writing (polite) letters of protest as a reader of short stories. Articles and letters promoting shorts could help, too, on blogs, forums, e-zines, etc. And try actually reading short stories, as many as you can. We are the market. If we can generate more interest, perhaps the publishing world will revisit and rehabilitate the dying art of short stories.

Peace and Love,

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