This week I received an exciting piece of news. A short story I entered into a competition made the Short List. As a writer it is the sort of news that sends tingles down your spine and puts a smile on your face.
Rejection is part and parcel of the everyday when you write, it comes with the territory. So when you get a short list or long list placing you can be assured that your story has had an impact – it is a wonderful feeling. Some days writing is thankless and hard, it can feel as if you are wading through treacle. You try your hardest to make your story sing only to have it land flat. Moments that make you fly are so important. They serve as a reminder that sometimes, just sometimes you can hold a tune!
Thankfully I do not have to wait too long for the results.
Tomorrow June 16th is National Flash Fiction Day. As part of the celebrations, I have been fortunate enough to have my flash fiction story ‘Yellow‘ selected for inclusion. I shall be featured alongside some fine authors each with a captivating story to tell. For 24 hours from midnight tonight you can read a myriad of fine tales all 500 words or below. My offering ‘Yellow‘ will be up at 05:00 BST. I would love it if you could set your alarm, give it a read and post a comment (I know a big ask but if you don’t ask and all that…). I am in good company, my friends and fellow authors Jane Lomas and Rosie Canning also have their flash pieces included. Rosie’s story ‘The Swimmer’ will be up sometime between 06:00 – 07:00 and Janes story ‘First Love’ will be up at approx.07:12. Whenever you tune in there will be a story to tickle your literary taste buds. Check out all of the wonderful stories from midnight tonight here
A few days ago I received some rather good news. One of my short stories has been shortlisted for a competition. After the initial ‘yes, it really is your story, no you are not dreaming’, came gasps of joy, disbelief and an overwhelming sense of all good things. Buried deep, almost hidden I found strength. Let me explain… Writing can be a lonely experience, the road is often filled with diversions. Great big signposts fill your head – ‘give up’, ‘you’re rubbish’, ‘not good enough’. Writing novels is a long experience and takes an awful amount of strength. As time goes by that strength can wane, as it does those ‘signs’ sitting on your shoulder grow bigger. Being shortlisted has refuelled me. It has given me strength, provided re-enforcement to keep going.
I do not know if I will win, but I do know that I am now superwoman and can conquer the world once more!
Whilst work continues on books 3 and 4 I have been busy beavering away with my short story collection. For those of you that know me a short story collection will come as no surprise. I love the short form in all its gloriousness and have over the last few years built up an eclectic body of work. My shorts range from humorous and funny, to poignant and sad with everything in between. Each story ranges in length from 500 words up to 3,000. Many have been entered into competitions with the title piece ‘Soaring’ being shortlisted and featured in the Black Pear Press anthology for 2016.
I wrote my first short story in 2015. I had just finished reading fellow author Wayne Barton’s ghost story ‘Coal House’, which btw I would highly recommend. It stirred me to move out of my comfort zone. I did not want to write a ghost story, but I did want to try something new. I have always been a fan of short stories and toyed with the idea of giving it a go. I had just completed my debut novel All Tomorrow’s Parties and was thinking about writing Forbidden Colours. I put pen to paper and wrote my first piece of short fiction ‘6 months and 3 days’ over the course of an evening. It was 500 words long. The experience of using so few words to convey an entire story had made my mind do mental gymnastics but I loved it. I was unsure what I should do with it, so in typical fashion, I jumped in feet first and entered it into a flash fiction competition. I then forgot about it and got on with the task in hand – writing what would subsequently become Forbidden Colours.
A month or so later I heard I hadn’t won, I had not expected to, but I was shortlisted which was a big surprise. During a lull in proceedings with FC, I challenged myself a bit further and wrote ‘Come Tilly Come’, a 2,000-word tale of love and loss. I showed it to my sister and it made her cry, which was a good thing! CTC was longlisted in the Exeter Short Story Competition. It was another lovely surprise and gave me the confidence I needed to continue writing shorts as and when I could.
When I’m writing novels I like to step away from them to regroup and gather my thoughts. It’s what I need to do to maintain my sanity! Writing short stories to enable me to do that. They plug the void, making me think in different ways about everyday things and I love it. It’s a bit like therapy. What is it they say, a change is as good as a rest? Well, that’s certainly true in my case. I have to deliberate so hard over every single word it’s a real lesson in disciplined concentration! Once I’ve rewarded myself by writing a short story I returned energised to my larger pieces of work.
Don’t ever believe anyone who tells you short stories are easy to write – they are not. Every word needs to be needed, every word needs to count and every word needs to propel the story forward. So here I am, almost ready to release my first collection. It is scary and exciting.
‘Soaring’ is a story that features in the collection. It is a tale of marital abuse and the oppression of women. It is my favourite short story and it arrived quite by accident. One night whilst I was watching TV, I got up from the sofa, reached for my notepad and pen and started to write. By 2 am ‘Soaring’ had arrived.
There is something quite magical and edgy about crafting words to a defined number. Short stories stretch me in a way that screams ‘pay attention, it’s important’ and that’s what appeals. Whilst I have a little way to go before it’s release I wanted to show you its’ beautiful cover. Once again James at goonwrite.com has done me proud. He has designed all of my covers to date and they are all stunning. So, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you ‘Soaring’. I hope you love the cover as much as I do.
Do you or have you ever thought about writing short stories? I’d love to hear about your experiences. Pop a comment below.
Long seen as the poor relation to the novel, short stories are back in vogue, and with good reason. The turnabout probably came, back in 2013 when Lynda Davis won The Man Booker prize for her collection of short stories. That coupled with the launch of Amazons ‘singles’ – (works of between 5,000 – 30,000 words) have spurred on its success. Since then the short story has grown in popularity, going from strength to strength.
The world today provides a perfect landscape for the short story to flourish. We are all so busy these days. By trying to navigate and juggle our frenetic lives, our time gets consumed by all things electronic. This is both good and bad. It is within this world that the revival of the short story is showing its metal. The reading of a short story can be achieved on the commute to work, say on your phone or tablet in one sitting – it’s a perfect medium and fits well into that time and place. I personally love the short story form form. As a writer, it helps me to stay sharp and focused. Somehow it seems to drive my creativity for my longer novels if that makes sense? By losing myself for a couple of hours writing a short story, I return to my larger work refreshed and fully charged. Writing a short means I have to be bold, be bright and be gone. No waffle just straight in feet first. Less is definitely more with a short and therein lies my love of writing them. It appears I am in good company!
The short story has its roots buried deep within our culture. Dickens, known for creating some of our best loved fictional characters was a prolific short story writer. His success began with the serialization of The Pickwick Papers. His novels were mostly published in weekly or monthly installments, a sort of short story for the times.
I have recently had some successes with my short stories. They have woven their way into a variety of longlists and this month saw my first short list addition! …. Fingers crossed.
With my second novel well into the ‘red marker’ editing phase (or slash and burn as I call it), I have set my sights on my next piece of work – a collection of short stories. They will be my toughest challenge yet but I’m game if you are?