Skip to content

A Short Sharp Shock

February 24, 2011

I am, by nature I think, a short story writer. It’s not that I don’t believe I have the ability to write a novel or that I think it’s just a bit too much like hard work. Rather,  it’s just naturally what flows from my chipped nail varnish fingertips to the screen.

But making a career out of being a short story writer is almost laughable. Despite a resurgence in the genre in the last few years, it’s still highly unlikely that an agent would touch them with the proverbial. One has to be an established writer with novels bulging from a belt before they’re given due consideration.

The main issue is money; there isn’t any to be made from short stories. I recently read this interview with Lucy Luck Associates on the which offers an agents view on the viability and revenue expectations that short stories offer. It doesn’t make for positive reading.

This long-standing opinion of the genre is somewhat unfair. It’s a challenging genre to get right, limited length means a small window to draw the reader in, bring the story to a good conclusion and leave the reader satisfied.

It surprises me, given this increasingly fast-paced society we are hurtling into, that short stories have not increased in popularity. With time a precious commodity, surely a short story delivers a hearty but bite size meal? In the time it takes to travel from Victoria to Kings Cross on the Tube, someone could have been blissfully drawn into another world and come back out the other side.

We happily dip in and out of novels, why not short stories? Are they not by nature far more suited to our current here and now culture?

What’s odd is that there are many, many competitions dedicated to the short story, a lot of which have cash prizes. There are also festivals celebrating this style of writing which are very popular and never fail to draw in the crowds.

However this may be where part of the problem lies; it seems to be viewed as the domain of the amateur. Those who dabble in literary endeavours whilst getting on with their real lives. Who may harbour ambitions to be a world renowned author but are lacking several things needed to actually get there. Are short story writers on the whole viewed as wannabes? As enthusiastic hobbyists that create short stories because they lack the lengthy inner prose needed to produce a best-selling novel?

I sincerely hope not, but it’s difficult to remain positive and determined when short stories are so often automatically dismissed by those at the top. Perhaps its time the powers that be looked again at the market opportunities for this clearly much-loved genre.


One Comment leave one →
  1. February 26, 2011 12:02 pm

    There does seem to be a paucity of short story collections being marketed alongside the many thousands of novels published every month. On the other hand, there are loads of magazines for short fiction as well, many of which have very healthy readerships. Maybe it’s a reflection of how/when people like to read short fiction.

    It’s certainly true that, in these increasingly busy days, short fiction ought to be a very popular way to get a bit of reading time in on the way to work. I do think that a lot of people value short fiction, but or some reason it’s almost an underground market compared to novels. One has to go looking for short fiction quite specifically before there’s much chance of finding any.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: