Friday, September 08, 2017

Long, Short, or Both

I can now go to the EQMM website and see my short story, "The Singapore Sling Affair," listed in the next (November/December) issue. It's like that moment when you see the cover of your book and know you'll soon have it in your hand. This will be my third published short story -- the first in an anthology, followed by two in EQMM. I'm surprised because I've never thought of myself as a short story writer.

Now, I admit, my short stories are long. "The Singapore Sling Affair" is almost 12,000 words. I wrote it because I discovered a fascinating historical tidbit and because I wanted to try writing about a new protagonist. I'm hoping my former Army nurse will get her own series. I'd love to write about the adjustments people were making to their lives after World War II in a small town in upstate New York.

But even with my motivation to write this short story, I went through multiple drafts as I tired to find the focus that a short story requires. I love subplots. I love finding connections. There isn't a lot of time or space for that in a short story. Still, I found that I enjoyed the challenge.

That doesn't mean I'm about to give up novel writing. Books provide the opportunity for subplots. For character development. For descriptions. I can write 100,000 words and then make adjustments by trimming away the flab. I can go off on tangents while finding the story. Short stories, on the other hand, require a plan.

But for a writer who is introducing a new protagonist, a short story has advantages. Much less investment of the writer's time. Much less investment of the reader's time.

Thoughts from those of you who write (or read) both novels and short stories?


Sybil Johnson said...

Congrats on the latest short story. I've written 5 or 6 short stories that have been published over the years. I enjoy writing them, but they are very different to plot. Most end up coming in around 4000-5000 words.

While my books are on the lighter side, my short stories are often darker. Not all, though. Aurora Anderson, the protag in my books, first appeared in a short story called "Family Business" in a long gone mystery e-mag.

I have an idea for a short story that I haven't written yet. I've sketched it out, just haven't found the time to write it. It all came about because of all the construction going on around us...

Frankie Y. Bailey said...


As soon as I read construction, I thought of a body buried under the cement, or the noise covering a gunshot. Looking forward to reading that one.

Sybil Johnson said...

Oh, so many possibilities regarding construction. I have so many ideas. That's what happens when it's been going on around you constantly for about 6 or 7 years.

Vicki Delany said...

I don't write short stories, but I do write novellas, and yours sounds more like a novella than a short story. Mine come in about 15 - 18,000 words and are published as standalone works. I think of novellas as the elements of a novel stripped down to the bare essentials. The plot and characters have to be there, but all the other stuff, sub plots, minor characters, flashbacks etc. are gone.

Frankie Y. Bailey said...


As close as I could come. I was trying to avoid reaching novella word count to give myself a better change of being accepted by EQMM. But I wanted to introduce the protagonist and the other people in the village and sketch in as much as I could of the setting.