I’m delighted to bring you this guest blog post, today on the topic of short stories, by novelist and short story author of all things “ordinary, fantasy / sci-fi / weird” Alberta Ross.
Thank you Morgen for having me here again. When you suggested a post on short stories I was reminded again how I got into being a published author and if any of your readers have followed me on this tour they will know the first of The Sefuty Chronicles, Ellen’s Tale, began life as a short story. Something happened and I am now in the middle of a series!
I always used to say I was rubbish at shorts, while sending my exercise pieces to my friend from forever / editor to correct, I only considered them to be exercise pieces for the writing group I was in. She liked them, the writing group liked them; I still thought they were exercise pieces. I wrote a fairy story for another friend for her birthday and she seemed to enjoy it. My friend from forever / editor was not so keen on my dystopian series although she has in true friendship mode wonderfully edited for me over the years. So to make her happy I took a break from the apocalyptic world of the future and turned my attention to the shorts. Could I, me with a classic case of verbosity – just gabby me! – could I write short stories?
I read them, thought about them, discarded the pure rubbish and thought again. Maybe there was some merit in them. The ones my friends had really enjoyed were first to be picked and considered, how much tweaking would they need? Then the ones I really enjoyed came next and I have to say not all were enjoyed by others, my mind sometimes wanders down some strange dark lanes.
Were there enough for a collection and did it matter that they were such an eclectic mix? No, there were not enough. I lengthened my absence from the dystopian and let all the weird and wonderful ideas in my murky subconscious slowly bubble to the top. Inspirational thoughts, events I had witnessed, actions I had undertaken; an open floodgate of ideas and pictures tumbled through. Now some of those were certainly worth pursuing.
I pursued. Many remain outlines, scribbled notes in the margins. Others flexed their muscles, some stretched lean sleek outlines into shape. A wonderful feeling to capture a tale in a few pages. I spent the hours muttering to myself, wandered around other worlds cutting friends on the street. My dreams worked and reworked the words, the images, nightly. It was fun, time-consuming but fun.
My collection includes tales of everyday, fantasy, a little sci-fi and my favourites which have caused heated debate as to whether they qualify as short stories at all.
Can they qualify if there is no plot, for instance; no beginning, middle and end? Can they qualify if it almost impossible to know what they are about (do I even know, they ask?)? If the whole piece is merely an internal dialogue which rambles in insanity? Or a counting game with no reason? Are they prose or poetry or, and this was a new word for me at the time, prose poetry? Does the short story have to have recognisable characters? Were these, I considered, short stories?
I hate these imposed rules; I am trying to buck the genre rules at the moment with my novels. To find that many quibbled at my definition of a short story made me even more determined to include them! Rebel? Me? No!
However putting this odd mix of stories together proved more difficult than writing them. All the ordinary together? All the sci fi together? No, no, no that was buying into the whole genre thingy. Mix them? The weird were not so long, a page, two maybe, easy to skip if the reader really couldn’t abide them. So for a kind of order I placed them in groups, each group including a long short story, 2000-3000 words, a short, 500-1500 words and a flash 200-500 words. Within those groups would be a mix of ordinary, fantasy / sci-fi / weird. Balancing these took time and many phone calls to friend from forever / editor. She is an amazing friend I have to say, editing a stream of consciousness is not easy!!
The layout was difficult and some of my pieces I wanted formatted differently – always awkward, me! The marriage between index and page numbering a nightmare of late nights and frustrations. Do not believe anyone who says the hard work is over when the writing is finished. If one is an Indie author this is where the hard work begins.
Jack’s Tale, the third in my dystopian series comes out this month (October) and I begin my second collection of short stories. My mind has been slowly fermenting new tales as I wandered in the Sefuty Chronicle world. I shall enjoy the change of scene and the discipline will put me back into shape.
I had surprising reaction to A Patchwork of Perspectives when it came out. Many liked the odd ones, people whom I would not have suspected of doing so. Some spent a lot of time trying to work out if any were autobiographical. Were they? I’m not telling!
I like that “something happened”, and I think those ‘dark lanes’ sound very familiar. And I think the good thing about eBooks as that you can step outside genres. And I’d say a friend from forever would know you well enough to ‘get’ your brain… ooh would she like to do something for my blog? Thank you, again, Alberta!
Alberta spent the first part of her adult life travelling the world, the middle years studying and now has settled down to write. From the first part she has endless photographs, memories and friends. From the second she has a BSc Hons, an MA and friends. Now in this part everything comes together. Over the years her interests have expanded, as has her book and music collection. A shortlist would include reading (almost anything) science, opera, folk, gardening, philosophy, crazy patchwork, freeform crochet, ethics, social history, cooking (and eating of course) gardening, anthropology, climate change and sustainability. Her parents gave her, apart from a love of reading and music, an interest and curiosity in everything which in itself has become a total inability to be bored and for this she is always grateful.
Alberta’s website is http://www.albertaross.co.uk (which details her books, extracts, readers comments and contact information), http://sefutychronicles-albertaross.blogspot.com (where she blogs about writing, self-publishing and her books), http://www.didyoueverkissafrog.typepad.com (where she blogs about anything she fancies). She can also be followed on Twitter.
If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please” (while quietly bouncing up and down in my seat with joy!).