Oops! It’s the middle of March and it’s my first blog of the year. I have to say that I have some sympathy with the views of my good friend Mr Taylor over at THAT ELUSIVE LINE on the subject of blogging. Everything I want to write does indeed seem either to be bragging or boring. So the end result is that I don’t, and yet as Thomas rightly points out, we are supposed to be doing this digital thing.
In the end, I think it’s best to write only when you want to (that goes for all types of writing), and I wanted to say a few things about short stories, so, ahem….
I’ve recently written a short story for a project in association with The Guardian and Sony called futurescapes: (Life in 2025 if you want to read it) and as a result of that was asked to be a judge for a short story competition. There were some great entries, but it made me think about the art of short fiction.
A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to edit an anthology of short stories for Walker Books. I approached all sorts of friends and acquaintances in the writing world, and was surprised to discover that at least half of the authors I spoke to don’t like short stories, or at least don’t like writing them. I won’t name names of course, but a few people told me they just hated them, didn’t understand them, or didn’t know how to write them, which was refreshingly honest. I’ve always liked short stories, because it’s a chance to let your hair down a bit, do something different from what you usually do, experiment, take risks, but without the investment required to write a whole book. And some ideas just lend themselves better to short fiction.
I suppose the truth of the matter is that writing, of whatever sort, has to have a point. I don’t mean a message per se, but there has to be a reason to do it; because it’s beautiful, conveys emotion, makes you think etc etc etc. And the challenge in short fiction is how to do that in say, 4,000 words. It’s a tricky art form therefore, and I see why some writers don’t like it. But that’s also why they can be so satisfying, to do something that ‘has a point’ in so few words is a great feeling. When you get it right…