Okay, what about short stories?

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JohnDurvin
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Okay, what about short stories?

Post by JohnDurvin » March 21st, 2011, 12:16 pm

We always talk about novels in here, and I realized last night that having a few short story creds might help my query letters. But what the heck do you do with them? Online or magazines? Word count? I've got a couple of things under 5000 words.
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polymath
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Re: Okay, what about short stories?

Post by polymath » March 21st, 2011, 12:29 pm

Submit short stories to fiction digests. See Doutrope or a similar writers' guide to short works for digest submission guidelines. Five thousand words tops the general length bracket for most digests. The average is closer to four thousand words.

Whether there's a place for posting short works for comment here at the Bransford forums is I guess a matter of finding a niche that will participate.
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Re: Okay, what about short stories?

Post by sierramcconnell » March 22nd, 2011, 3:49 pm

It takes a special person to be able to do a short story. I can't for the life of me do one. A short story to me is like a Lays potato chip.

I can't stop at one.

Because...what about...this happening? And then that guy? And that thing? And that over there?!

Yeah...I'm terrible. The only thing short about me is my stature. XD

So I applaude you, short story man!
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Re: Okay, what about short stories?

Post by Moni12 » March 22nd, 2011, 10:06 pm

I got to read a short story for a regional conference. I was one of three on the very first creative writing panel, but I don't think it's something I can put on a query letter. If anyone thinks otherwise please let me know. It's a different genre than my novels, but if I can put it in a letter it may help. I've written short stories, none published before. I'll have to start pushing them more.

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Re: Okay, what about short stories?

Post by JohnDurvin » March 23rd, 2011, 11:30 am

Completely forgot about a sub-question I wanted to ask everybody. What do you think of short stories that read like the first chapter of novels? You know, introducing a character, a setting, a conflict, and then instead of going on to resolve everything, just sort of sends them off into the world of adventure. When reading something like that, is it fun to imagine what might come next, or is it simply unsatisfying?
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polymath
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Re: Okay, what about short stories?

Post by polymath » March 23rd, 2011, 11:51 am

Short works oughta do the same as long works, complete an action portraying some kind of profound transformation.

Real life open ended action doesn't quite satisfy reader curiosity. The general dramatic question central to dramatic prose What will happen? as a consequence of an inciting crisis must be answered in order to complete an action.

Larger-than-life, life defining final outcome transformations readers identify with satisfy most.

Consider the plot of a simple crisis, say an automobile mishap. Cause, say a flat tire. Changing the tire becomes an escalating crisis wanting closure, not necessarily resolution. A revelation recognized while addressing a crisis can also cause a transformation. And, of course, changing a flat tire can also go from bad to worse transformation-wise. It could be the tipping point threshold for catastrophe, though mass culture readers prefer favorable final outcomes. Thus popularly appealing circumstances go from bad to good transformation-wise.
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Re: Okay, what about short stories?

Post by Margo » March 23rd, 2011, 12:24 pm

JohnDurvin wrote:Completely forgot about a sub-question I wanted to ask everybody. What do you think of short stories that read like the first chapter of novels? You know, introducing a character, a setting, a conflict, and then instead of going on to resolve everything, just sort of sends them off into the world of adventure. When reading something like that, is it fun to imagine what might come next, or is it simply unsatisfying?
I agree with polymath that a short story needs to be more than set-up. For me, there needs to be character development and change. You use the term 'resolve', and I think there does need to be an element of resolution. I would stray a bit from the idea that the short story needs to follow all the steps of classical story arc. I have encountered, tried, and liked the idea that a writer can narrow the focus to a particular phase of the story. However, I feel that phase then also needs to include its own element of choice and transformation (a sub-resolution, if you will, which I think would be hard if not impossible to pull off in the set-up stage in a satisfying way) - and would also need to make the developments of the earlier stages clear and elude to the events that will occur after the phase being featured in the story. It's my opinion that this narrowed-focus story works better if the selected stage is later rather than earlier in the overall story arc.
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Re: Okay, what about short stories?

Post by mnaylor3 » March 23rd, 2011, 1:08 pm

I'm sure it's a matter of putting the Google search bar to work to find journals to submit your short story to.

I doubt publishing short stories are a good way to pad a query letter provided there is a good way to pad a query letter.

If you still want to write short stories, just take it one word at a time and stop when you're done. I'd recommend not worrying too much about arcs and resolving things. Leave that to the rewrites.

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Re: Okay, what about short stories?

Post by HillaryJ » March 24th, 2011, 3:36 am

Polymath mentioned www.duotrope.com, which is an excellent resource for finding traditional and electronic publications. You can search be genre and story type, and get a decent idea of wait time and acceptance rate.

I believe Nathan has posted before about mentioning short story credits in novel queries, and I believe the advice was not to include anything that wasn't posted in the major publications for your genre. [But please search for his answer for the "horse's mouth" version] Anything outside the genre, or published in very small circulation zines or mags just doesn't apply. The query space could better be filled showing your excellent story.

Short stories should be complete. Not everything has to resolve, and they can include characters and worlds from other work, but shouldn't be "teases" for something else. Also, you'll want to watch your rights to make sure you don't compromise your right to use characters/worlds/details in other works. I believe that to be very rare in short story contracts, but it pays to be vigilant.

When in doubt about a short story market, read the publication. If you are new to writing short stories, look at composition. If you're wondering what that/those editors seem to like, read a few issues.
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Re: Okay, what about short stories?

Post by JohnDurvin » March 25th, 2011, 12:09 pm

Thanks--I thought the first-chapter-only stories were a bad idea, but I've read more than a few and thought maybe it was an okay thing to do.
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Re: Okay, what about short stories?

Post by polymath » March 25th, 2011, 1:32 pm

I've read quite a few short works that were either excerpts of longer works or self-contained serially published portions of longer works. They all have one thing in common. They complete one central dramatic complication. Most end with a larger pending complication incomplete, which tempts me to read further in their respective sagas, I suppose, as they're intended to do. One thing that irritates me is leaving a central dramatic complication incomplete with a patently artless cliffhanger ending.
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