Keeping it short: N M Browne
I am a reluctant short story writer and, though I have contributed work for the fabulous 'Author's Electric' Collections Flash in the Pen and Another Flash in the Pen, I don’t often write much at less than 60,000 words.
It is a kind of a meanness in me I think: the same kind of meanness that makes it hard for me to part with beautiful packaging and plastic take-away containers, because even though they are always the wrong shape and I’ve invariably lost their lids - they might just come in handy one day.
It is the same with story ideas, unless very slight, they might just come in handy one day and why give away a story at 2,000 words when, with careful husbandry and a little ingenuity, you could spin it out for 80,000 and sell it as a novel?
Of course in my rational mind, I know that will never happen - short story ideas have the wrong kind of heft and weight for novels - just as I know deep down that I will never actually use exotic, oddly-shaped packaging except to waste space in my under-stairs cupboard (AKA 'the horrible cupboard') Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop me hoarding both ideas and packaging like a miser against an unspecified and largely unimaginable need. Anyway, to cut a novel-length, shaggy-dog story to a more manageable slice of flash - all this is about to change.
Earlier this week I took part in Stroud Short Stories - a twice yearly event in which writers with some connection to Gloucestershire submit work to John Holland and a co-judge. John then chooses ten authors to read their stories at a lovely event in Stroud to a live and indeed lively audience of real, sentient humans. As I’ve been renting in Cheltenham for the last year, I was eligible and my short story ‘the Stardust Girl’ was chosen as one of the ten.
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I can’t tell you what a pleasure it was to meet the other writers, listen to their stories, read my own work out loud to a packed and appreciative audience and have a convivial glass of wine at the bar.
I have never been to a short-story reading before, but I am now a total convert. I even met our very own Ali Bacon, who was the co-judge for the May event. (For anyone concerned about Authors Electric corruption, we completely failed to realise the connection until some days later!) There will even be a book featuring 57 stories from Nov 2015 to May 2018, which will be out later in the summer. So, to cut to the chase, the turn in this tale: forget this long drawn out, novel-writing nonsense I am now an ex-novelist. I will no longer be prolix, long winded, digressive and repetitive. The new me is cryptic, clever and concise. And what is more, I’m going to throw away my random, useless packaging collection. Probably.
Congratulations on your Stroud success. Am full of admiration as in some ways the short story form is much harder to master than the novel. Character, plot, telling scene, emotion, all fitting into that tight framework... and how do you know when an idea is perfect for a abort story and not a long one? Maybe you just know.