The joy of writing short stories again
My published work since 2004 can be summed up by four novels a few nonfiction pieces and a string of online and print reviews. Last year after my contemporary fantasy Sarabande was released, I decided I needed a change of pace. I not only shifted my focus from novels to short stories, but stepped away from Glacier National Park as a location and explored the story possibilities in the Florida Panhandle where I grew up.
I haven’t been in that part of Florida since the 1980s, but I have a ton of memories of excursions to the beach, exploring caves, floating down rivers, camping in the national forests and weird things that happened in Tallahassee where I lived to give me a lot to write about. A novelist friend of mine has, as it turns out, shifted over to short fiction because they are so well contained that she can tinker with them off and on until they are perfect.
Unfortunately, today’s publishing realities—or the way we are trained as writers—don’t allow us to work on each novel for five, ten or twenty years. This often means that we’re more likely to pay more prolonged attention to a short story than a chapter of similar length in an 80,000- to 150,000-word novel.
I’ve also been enjoying short stories because I found tales to tell that didn’t really need those 80,000 words. Plus, I suppose, I just haven’t found a theme and a plot that I’m passionate enough about to commit to a year of working on a novel-length manuscript.
On Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere around the Internet, a lot of people have been saying, “Where have you been?” They haven’t seen any of the stories yet, so they assume I’m spending my time watching soap operas or working in the yard. To show that—seriously folks—I am working, my publisher and I released my story “Moonlight and Ghosts” as a Kindle e-book. It’s about a former mental health worker who sneaks into the now-abandoned facility where he used to work and discovers a former resident needs his help. My colleague Anne K. Albert interviewed me about the story here.
Ultimately, I may well collect a lot of my 2012 short stories into a book-length collection. But the good news is, I don’t have to. I can enjoy each story from 2000 to 5000 words for what it is ( a tall tale, a bit of humor, a ghost, a blackwater river, or animals living in a swamp) and then move on to the next yarn.
Writing-wise, this year has been a delightful experience, rather like being at a smorgasbord of prospective stories and getting to choose a tasty morsel here and then sampling something over there.
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