The Revitalization of the Short Story
There's a lot of bad news out there but there is a new trend emerging from our modern, online, no-time world. Short stories are making a comeback. We've all heard the predictions that the Internet, computers, gaming, and the multi-media extravaganza that is our life now means that no one reads anymore. However, much of the Internet is reading and with online and e-publishing growing, the short story and novella is emerging as the story of choice.
It makes sense.
You're sitting on the commuter train, in your carpool, or waiting for your next class to begin. You're tired of reading the millions of IMs containing the minutiae of all your friends' daily lives. You want to read a story. You already carry around a plethora of mobile devices, any one of which can download and contain any number of stories. But you're constrained for time and it's not that comfortable to read a 500 page tome on a tiny screen. But it's not too bad for twenty minutes, or about as long as it would take to read a short story.
Some of the bestselling stories being downloaded now are short. They range from short stories, through novellas, into the full-length book category. But by far the more popular ones are the short stories and novellas. They have been so successful, in fact, that publishers—both e-publishers and traditional NY publishers alike—are collecting up those stories in anthologies and publishing them as print books.
And this is fantastic. It is such a wonderful opportunity for new writers and old writers alike. I, personally, have been toying with several ideas for novellas. The only thing that scares me is the speed with which the story has to develop. You have to get those characters introduced to the reader and into their conflict within a page or two. Then you've got to bring that conflict to a rapid boil and resolve it, pronto. No time for a lot of setup, which can take me the first 1/3 to 2/3 of a full-length book. It's a daunting prospect.
But it's a great way to learn economy of style and how to get characters in and out of trouble swiftly. It's wonderful discipline. And it's quick. You can write a rough draft in a week instead of three or four months (or however long it takes you to write the first draft of a book). Of course then you're in the editing cycle and that can stretch out for a long time, but it should be quicker.
And for a new writer, you can build both your skills and your audience more quickly. You can build up a body of work. Your stories can be collected into anthologies and if you're really lucky, you can get into an anthology with a really famous author. Readers who pick up the book to read the "big name author" will read your story, too, and you'll build your audience even faster. It's a win-win.
So for once, rejoice in the opportunities offered by our "I want it now" age. It may be easier than ever to get into the fast lane and finally get someone to read all those stories you've been longing to share.