Transcription of BWT podcast episode 29 (March 2011) – short stories

The twenty-ninth episode of the Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast was released on 7th March 2011 and the content has never been released other than website links (on my website http://www.morgenbailey.com) so I hope you find this information useful. In the first twenty-eight episodes (see https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/bwt-podcast for details), I covered ‘show not tell’, the five senses, repetition, points of view, tenses, dialogue, characters, crime, poetry, short stories, novels, writing for children, scriptwriting, comedy, romance and chick lit, erotica, ‘writing rules’, historical & the classics, name & characters, Christmas, opportunities, songwriting, reading, auto/biographies, computer tips (parts 1&2), competitions & submissions, romance and hints & tips (parts 1&2). This episode had a focus on short stories.

Short stories

  • Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Short_story page says that “The short story refers to a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, usually in narrative format. This format or medium tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas (in the 20th and 21st century sense) and novels or books…” Click on the blue link for the full text.
  • The Encyclopaedia Britannica (www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/541698/short-story) summarises the short story as “usually presenting a single significant episode or scene involving a limited number of characters. The form encourages economy of setting and concise narration; character is disclosed in action and dramatic encounter but seldom fully developed. A short story may concentrate on the creation of mood rather than the telling of a story. Despite numerous precedents, it emerged only in the 19th century as a distinct literary genre in the works of writers such as E.T.A. Hoffmann, Heinrich Kleist, Edgar Allan Poe, Prosper Mérimée, Guy de Maupassant, and Anton Chekhov.” There are further headings of analysis of the genre, history, the 20th century, additional reading, external web sites and citations. The topics are split by adverts but these are writing related so may be of interest.
  • www.mantex.co.uk/ou/resource/story-00.htm is an interesting page entitled ‘The short story – a guide to the greatest works’. It mentions examples of Edgar Allen Poe, Nathanial Hawthorne, Guy de Maupassant, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, Jorge Luis Borges, Ernest Hemingway, John Cheever and Nadine Gordimer (with links to Amazon where you can buy them). There are also brief descriptions and links to purchase two books on writing short stories – ‘Writing Short Stories’ by Ailsa Cox and ‘The Short Story: the reality of artifice’ by Charles E May. The Mantex website is worth a look even if you don’t write short stories.
  • www.twns.co.uk is the website of The Weekly News. Disguised as a folded tabloid, the newspaper is a fascinating read and includes 2-3 short stories! I’d found out about it some months back from a workshop that novelist and short story writer Sue Moorcroft ran. You can email The Weekly News directly from their website or get their guidelines (and many others) from http://womagwriter.blogspot.com.
  • Sue also mentioned Short Talk UK, an online publisher of recorded short stories. They’re looking for stories, c. 600-7,000 word count, for all age ranges that can be read aloud. Send by email with name and contact address, and a short bio with your submission. Payment is dependent on length. Their website is www.shortalk.co.uk.

Fast / flash fiction

‘Fast’ and ‘flash’ fiction are the terms used for stories of 500 words or less.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flash_fiction explains that ‘Flash fiction’ is fiction of extreme brevity. The standard, generally-accepted length of a flash fiction piece is 1000 words or less. By contrast, a short-short measures 1001 words to 2500 words, and a traditional short story measures 2501 to 7500 words. A novelette runs from 7501 words to 17,500, a novella 17,501 words to 40,000 words, and a novel 40,001 words and up. It then goes on to explain terms, history, vignette, notes and references (usually other related websites). Vignette says “Flash fiction differs from a vignette in that the flash-fiction work contains the classic story elements: protagonist, conflict, obstacles or complications, and resolution. However, unlike the case with a traditional short story, the limited word length often forces some of these elements to remain unwritten, that is, hinted at or implied in the written storyline.” The notes section lists three references including a November 2006 Wired Magazine article entitled ‘Very Short Stories’. See www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.11/sixwords.html includes a section on six word stories.
  • www.openwriting.com/archives/fast_fiction has many examples of very short stories (max 100 words) and will give you an idea of how it can be done.
  • Crime writer Adrian Magson, who I’ll be interviewing in a separate monthly podcast this summer, suggests writing a short story before attempting a novel, especially if struggling, because “then you won’t have expended too much effort to see if you can do it. After that it’s a question of scale.”

Short story submissions

  • American weekly magazine Woman’s World is apparently looking for short (c. 800 words) romance (contemporary and realistic) and mystery (good plot and twist) stories. Send submissions to Woman’s World, Bauer Publishing Co., 270 Sylvan Avenue, Englewood Cliffs NJ 06732 USA marking the envelope ‘Fiction’. See www.womans-world.co.uk and also www.ehow.co.uk/how_4759366_write-womans-world-magazine.html for tips on writing for them.
  • ‘Story Quarterly’ is a quality literary online magazine which, Writers’ News says, pays well and has an excellent reputation. Subscription is free with and has an online submission tracking system (like a parcel!). Submit only in April, August and December. The editorial team looks for literary and non- fiction including short stories, short shorts, novel excerpts, memoirs, essays and humour (max 8,000 words). International writers welcome. Submit work as a .doc, .pdf or .rtf file through their website (http://narrativemagazine.com/submit-your-work).
  • Vestal Review (www.vestalreview.net) is an eclectic magazine, open to all genres except children’s stories and hard science fiction. It includes four live flash stories per quarterly Web issue. Vestal Review has been published continuously since March 2000 and accepts submissions (max 2 stories per e-mail although you can send as many e-mails as you like) in January/February, April/May, July /August and October/November. E-mail to submissions@vestalreview.net putting ‘query’ or ‘submission’ with the title of your story in the subject line, then above the story put the word count, a brief covering letter and a two to three line third-person biography. Response time is within three months. Payment is 3 to 10 cents per word…and your work may appear in anthologies. They say “We are deluged with submissions and are very selective. A good flash is so condensed that it borderlines poetry”!
  • www.writing.com/main/forums/item_id/1253724 lists the rules for a weekly contest where you can submit 55 word stories. The deadline is midnight every Saturday.
  • www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/reports/misc/sixwordlife_20080205.shtml is an interesting BBC Radio 4 article on Ernest Hemingway winning $10 saying that he couldn’t write a six-word short story. The end result was rather sad, “For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn”. Others have tried it and the BBC page has a link to some including www.smithmag.net, an American online magazine which has used the Hemingway anecdote to inspire its readers to write their life story in just six words, culminating in a book of the best contributions, entitled “Not Quite What I Was Planning”. You can read BBC’s interview with the magazine’s editor, Larry Smith, to see what made him think of the idea. Below the ‘Listen to the interview’ link there are over sixty-five 6-word listener contributions including ‘Left mad Russian for mad Scotsman’ and ‘Laughed out loud, cried in silence’. Ahhh.
  • I also like these taken from www.sixwordstories.net: ‘Get rid of body? Knife. Fork.’, ‘Clock alarm struck 6:00, also wall’. Great use of double-meaning. You can read others at random or by category, you can like them to your Facebook page and there’s also a Twitter link.
  • A similar ideas is Fifty Word Stories: http://fiftywordstories.com/submissions.
  • www.twosentencestories.com – their home page says “big stories told in two little sentences”. Again this site contains loads of short stories through which you can search by topic and on which you can also vote for your favourite.
  • Although www.birdandmoon.com/55words no longer takes submissions it’s packed with 55-word stories that you can read and hopefully enjoy. Another is www.wunderland.com/WTS/Andy/Nanofiction.html which shows a variety of 55 word stories created by Andrew Looney (what a wonderful name!). The page also contains a link to Steve Moss’ book ‘The World Shortest Stories’ which I have and it’s great!

The great thing about very short short stories is that you can turn them into longer ones! Whether a story is 6, 55, 60, 100 or 150 words, they still have to have a start, middle and end so as long as you don’t steal another author’s actual wording, their ideas could inspire your stories (ideas aren’t copyright). www.ivillage.co.uk/write-a-short-story-in-60-words/80205 also lists some 60-word stories.

The podcast concluded with sentence starts, Quotes, On This Day in History and a 60-worder called ‘Just the lift she needed’: Jessica’s back complained from lugging the wicker basket around all day. She thought it would get easier as the day wore on, as the sandwiches were sold, but her feet just got sore. As the lift doors opened, Jess looked up and saw Chuck’s green eyes. Her aches were quickly forgotten as he smiled and asked politely “which floor ma’am?”

That’s it. Thanks for visiting – a list of the other transcripts and summaries can be found at https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/bwt-podcast.

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