Friday, 3 August 2012

"I DON'T DO SHORT STORIES" - Oh, maybe I do.


Historically I’ve not written short stories. Well to be honest, I’d actually written very little fiction before setting about the writing of The Knight Trilogy four years ago. Poetry had been my thing.

Then I stepped outside my lonely little writing bubble and discovered Twitter (Goodness, was it only two years ago?)  and a whole new world, nay worlds, opened up to me. I quickly found myself discovering amazing writer friends with incredibly varied and diverse talents. They appeared so active and exploratory in their writing. The bug was infectious; I started doing this crazy little thing called Flash Fiction – a ridiculous and brilliant idea where you just pen something in an hour or limited word count and stick it out there for the world to read.

It was fun and I discovered some great characters and scenarios that I might never have conceived if I had set about ‘seriously’ planning another novel. I started to click on the Re-tweeted links to short story competitions and anthologies and challenged myself to ‘have a go’ – to reject the little demon on my shoulder that said “no, you don’t do short stories …You only write this narrow, specific genre and form.”

I penned a short horror story called ‘The Venus Club’ and submitted it to the indiehorror story competition. Once posted on the site, fellow writers critiqued the work and then at the end of the week voted for a winner; to my complete humble surprise, they chose my work as the winning short story; encouraging me to expand it into a full length novel. The result of this is my YA novel ‘Beautiful Freaks’ – a novel that would possibly never have been born if it hadn’t been for this impulsive rise to the challenge.

In a fit of total enthusiasm I created a little challenge for myself; to write a short story in as many genres as I could within a month. I managed; horror, speculative fiction, epic fantasy, women’s lit and fairytale. You can go and have a nose at the results on my smashwords page; they’re all free to download.

At this time I also saw an obscure little tweet about an anthology called ‘Wandering Weeds. Jaletta Clegg was seeking submissions of short stories based on the theme of living (spooky) vegetation. I loved the idea of such an obscure subject and a genre completely out of any writing experience I’d had. I immediately pulled up a blank word document and set about writing a surreal little Americana paranormal tale involving tumble weeds. (Well with my English upbringing the tumble weed seemed the most quintessentially American plant I could think of – that or a cactus LOL!)

Recently, I’ve taken a rest from shorts and flash as I’ve spent the last six months dedicatedly working on the editing and publication of the last book of The Knight Trilogy. But guess what I did the very next day after publishing it – that’s right, I jumped on an opportunity that literally fell in my lap and penned a traditional country house short ghost story for a friend’s anthology; to be published later this year.

When I’ve broached the idea of short stories with some of my fellow writer friends, I’ve been surprised by their reaction against the idea of shorts. I’ve tried to encourage them with promise of fun and crazy wild opportunities but I guess it’s something you have to discover for yourself. In the meantime I’m going to renew my challenge; I really fancy trying a Western, and old-school Adventure and an Historical Romance – so watch this space.

And if you’re a writer that ‘doesn’t do’ short stories – Give it a go: I dare you! :)

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