Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Celebrate the Small Things

Size matters. It does. In speculative fiction, in any fiction, it can change everything.

Writing a novel is almost nothing like writing a short story. They are cousins, yes, but they have different rules, different structures, needs, formats, markets and nuances that make it complicated at best to switch from one to the other.

Authors will tell you if they are a "short story person" or not. They'll have strong opinions one way or another. Then again, they usually do. Some will insist that you must choose only one. They'll want you to pick sides, which we all know from my chronic genre hopping that I am unwilling to do.

You can't make me.

I usually have strong opinions too. I am an author after all. For the short story and the novel, I like to think I have equal affection. In fact, I think a strong skill set in short writing is a fabulous exercise for improving one's writing of any length. The short story is the dressage of the literary world. It makes us flexible, bendy, and teaches us to tighten, tighten, tighten.

A marathon short story writer will be as taut and well muscled as an Olympic dressage horse. He has trained you see. He knows that every word, every syllable must carry its own weight. It must "do" something.  A short story background involves word limits. (The novelist in the room, just passed out.) Limits, yes. It involves trimming the fat. Cutting and cutting and then once you've axed your masterpiece to death and squeezed in just under the editorial limit, getting a friendly email requesting you just "trim it another five hundred words or so."

Never is an author more understanding of the art of storytelling, than when he deletes half of his words and discovers that the tale still works. . . sometimes, works even better.

I love shorts. I love to read them too. My husband detests them. His response is always, always the same, "That's it?" My best friend agrees with him. Her rote answer is usually, "What happens next?"
But I like a little mystery in my fiction, even at the very end. I love the story, The Lady and the Tiger. I don't care which door the author thought his heroine picked for her hero, I KNOW she let him get eaten by that tiger. :)

As a reader, I like having that power there at the end. I can decide what happens next. You don't have to tell me everything. As an author, I love a short. I love a novel too, but today is short day, and in celebration I am giving away copies of my collection, A Little Short For An Alien, in which you will find less literary ladies and tigers and more goofy aliens and space bars. But I still hope you enjoy it. It's fun, at the very least.

Just leave a comment below to qualify and then get me your email. You may leave it in the comments or email it to: author@francespauli.com I will send out smashwords codes for the book, and if you like it, or if you don't but are a sucker for punishment, sign up for my newsletter in the sidebar.

And a huge welcome to all the Genre Underground folks! Check them out at:

Twitter: @GenreUndergroun
www.genreunderground.com – Interviews, blog posts, and announcements.

*making guinea pig noises*
~ Frances


M. Todd Gallowglas said...

Great post. I wish my brain would let me work in short stories more often. Ah, well. Variety is the spice of life.

mgallowglas (at) gmail (dot) com

Voss Foster said...

I'm a short author. Even my longer works tend to be shorter than most long works, or full of meaningless fluff, which gets cut to make it a shorter work.

As always, great content.


Michael Baker said...

I love the stories in this collection Dillon is one of my favorite people. As a copy of a little short for an alien, forever lives on my desk, I must bow out of the contest. But hugs anyway, and thanks for letting me read all your great stories.

MD Kenning said...

Great post about shorter works! mdkenning (at) gmail (dot) com

Jaleta Clegg said...

I love your shorts. And your short stories. (sorry, couldn't resist that one!) You're right that short works make us stronger writers. Every word has to count, every scene has to be perfect, etc. My problem is that my plots tend to get too messy to resolve in a short. That takes real patience and diligence, to keep the story small enough to fit in a short and yet strong enough to satisfy.

Angie said...

I love start stories! Especially the speculative kind. I write both shorts and novels, and love them both.


Angie said...

That was supposed to say short stories. Not start. Sigh.

Frances Pauli said...

Thanks for all the comments everyone! I am always torn between the lengths, but I do love a good story no matter the size. ;)
I think both formats have their place and purpose.

I hope you all enjoy reading the book too.

Melissa (My World...in words and pages) said...

I'm a short story lover too. I know lots of people have the same response as your husband and friend, but there are a few of us that love the short stories. I've heard many complain that it leaves them wanting more, and they don't get it. But I like the short stories. They have all needed in a quick read.

I'm also a novel lover as well. :) Thank you!