In this month’s Talking Point, my focus is on the short story genre. One of the ‘issues’ that arose at LitCamp’s unconference was how short stories are not perceived as worthy of mainstream publishing since they generally don’t sell well, or sell in enough volume as say novels.
Even if this is the case, I have found reading short stories as satisfying, and in some cases more satisfying than novels. For example, I vividly remember reading Olive Senior’s second story collection Arrival of the Snake-Woman (1989), an enchanting book of seven short stories, which were particularly well written and a pleasure to read.
In my view, short doesn’t equal less good and ‘less is more’ comes to my mind, since a lot of writing skill is required to be economic with words and yet ensure the depth of a story is there so that nothing is wasted.
According to Dianne Doubtfire in Creative Writing, (2003), ‘Short stories can be any length from 500 to 2500 words, depending on the market, or up to 5000 words for writing competitions. An average 850-1000 is a good ‘canvas’ for a story as it is a popular length with magazines.’
If you are new to writing, the thought of writing a novel of say 60,000 – 80,000 words can be quite daunting, which is why attempting to write a short story can be a great way to test your skills and learn the trade – the craft – of writing.
Arrival of the Snake-Woman by Olive Senior. Publ 1989.
Turf: Short Stories by new black writers. Edited by Jacob Ross and Andrea Enisuoh. Publ 2004 by Black Inc
The Monkey’s Typewriter with Contributions from Willesden Green Writers’ Workshop. Publ 2005 Winner of Raymond Williams Award.
*Centerprise Literature Short Story Competition 2008. Welcomes short stories from new and established writers on any theme. Stories should be 4000 words max and will be judged by the Centerprise in-house creative writing team: Jacob Ross, Martina Evans and Andrea Enisuoh.
Competition Deadline: 15th October 2008 - for entry form and competition rules please email: email@example.com. All winning entries plus shortlist will be considered for publication in a future anthology of work to be published by Centerprise. The top three selected entries will be read by a Literary Agency with a view to future developments.
*Centerprise Literature is an arts development agency for the promotion of access to and enjoyment of literature in all its forms. Through local and community based initiatives we offer courses, workshops and one to one support to new and aspiring writers.