Saturday, 16 July 2016

A Look at Short Stories by Wendy H. Jones



I've been thinking about short stories recently. In fact I've been thinking about them a lot. There are a number of reasons for this including moderating the short stories for the Scottish Association of Writers Summer Solstice competition, and having had several short stories published in anthologies. It is an area where I would like to develop and expand my repertoire.

Some time ago I read the book in the picture above. It is called Writing Short Stories A Writers' & Artists' Companion by Courttia Newland and Tania Hershman. This is not the cheapest book in the world but it is worth every penny.

One of the chapter titles is Stories, those little slices of life. For me that sums up in just a few well chosen words, what short stories are all about. They are a small glimpse into another world, or a means of looking at the ordinary in a different and unexpected way. The writer of short stories must use every highly crafted and well chosen word to draw the reader in. This has to be done from the first sentence. There is no room for extraneous words or any which do not move the story forward. I think that chapter title says it all. I could picture exactly what the author meant and where she was going with the chapter. A truly brilliant example.

The book is broken down into three parts as follows:

1. This gives the history of short stories as well as setting down their form and what they are. This gives context and is a fascinating introduction. The authors have made this highly informative and readable. I found the section on genre short stories to be particularly interesting. Who knew that there were aspects of crime short stories in the middle ages. For a crime writer this nugget of information leapt off the page.

2. This chapter is choc full of hints and tips from leading short story writers. These are all different but taken as a whole will help the short story writer to develop their craft exponentially.  Choosing wisely from amongst these nuggets should help the writer to make their short story powerful and resonate with readers.

3. This contains advice on how to hone your craft as a writer of short stories. It contains useful advice, ideas and exercises. This is a very practical section which should be used wisely and extensively.

Overall I think this is a book which all writers of short stories should read. It will help you to move your writing forward and lift it to the next level.


If you enjoy sort stories then the writers of this blog have published several anthologies as in the first three images above. The fourth image is a crime anthology in which I have a story. I can promise you entertainment and an eclectic mix of tales. More information can be found on Amazon.

About the Author

Click if you would like a free book - DI Shona McKenzie's Guide to Killing Your Boss


Wendy lives, and writes, in Dundee Scotland. She has four books out in the DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries. Her YA Mystery, The Dagger's Curse, will be published on 10th September, 2016 by Books to Treasure. This is the first in the Fergus and Flora Mysteries. She is also a public Speaker and can be contacted for speaking engagements through her website

4 comments:

Chris Longmuir said...

In the dim and distant past I used to write and publish short stories, but the strange thing is, that once I started to write novels, I seemed to lose the knack and found I couldn't do it anymore. I think novel writing and short story writing are two different skills because the demands of each form have different demands. Good post, Wendy. I may invest in the book.

Catherine Czerkawska said...

Thanks for this, Wendy. Like you, Chris, I used to write more short stories than I do now. I sometimes find myself using a short story as a springboard into a novel though - a means of exploring the possibilities of an idea although of course the story is always about one small aspect with wider implications. Mostly that's enough, but occasionally you realise that there's more to be said. I've judged a number of short story competitions in the past and the biggest problem people seem to have with the form is when they try to cram a whole life story into a few thousand words. I always think it's more about throwing a stone into a still pool and watching the ripples spread. William Trevor is one of my favourite short story writers ever. I'm always amazed by how he can manage to craft something that's easy to read, but that stays with you afterwards, layers and layers of it. When it works well it's a brilliant form.

Fran B said...

I have been a member of a two writing groups for several years and this has led me to write lots of short stories to fit the theme of each group meeting. With a maximum word count, the short story hones the skill of communicating setting, atmosphere and character briefly. as you say, every word has to count. It is a form more akin to poetry than to novel-writing. Good discipline for the garrulous! Not that I am that . . . or your good self . . .

Reb MacRath said...

Thanks, Wendy. I'll give it a try, though it takes more to get me going on even a piece of flash fiction than it does to start a novel. For those of us who write more slowly, occasional stories offer a way of keeping our names in readers' minds.