“Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.”
—Henry David Thoreau
Laurie R. King once remarked that she tends not to write short stories because, to make sure they meet her personal standards, they require almost as much work as one of her novels, with only a fraction of the financial reward.
Sure, she was exaggerating—I think … somewhat—but I’ve heard a number of other novelists say much the same thing.
I myself tend not to write short stories unless specifically asked to do so, usually for an anthology a friend is putting together (e.g., Wall Street Journal music columnist Jim Fusilli’s Crime Plus Music, coming out later this year).
I tend to think of stories in much the same way I do articles, as marketing devices, ways to get my name out there in a novel way, ho ho.
But that won’t work unless the stories are strong, and like Laurie says, good stories require a lot of the same effort that full novels do, precisely because of the increased demands for condensation, clarity of effect, and brevity.
This is very much on my mind right now because I’m working on a new novel as my story collection, Thirteen Confessions, is coming out.
I had to review once more all those stories I’d written for various anthologies and magazines, choose the best, say goodbye to the less-than-best, and do any last minute tidying up I felt was necessary.
It was a sobering experience, and not for the reasons I might have expected.