While novels can get one on the book shelves of Barnes & Nobles, as well as the New York Times bestsellers list, one has to start somewhere.
Stephen King started with short stories and I still have my tattered copy of Night Shift somewhere. I love the Golden Age of Science Fiction with those great short stories by Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Heinlein, Lester Del Rey and Isaac Asimov, among others.
Novellas fit in there, as well. What we called "books" as kids were, in fact, novelettes and novellas. And thank goodness. When my elementary and junior high schools were doing those reading contests to raise money for school field trips by seeing how many books you could read, it was fantastic that the books were only 40-50 pages.
When I began writing fiction, I went with short stories because I'd been exposed to them first. My intro to novels was Silas Marner, so you can see that reading long tomes would not pique my interest for a long time.
I love writing short stories. I have so many ideas I can't keep up with all of them. Whether it's walking through the mall, "relaxing" on set during a 14-hour film shoot or trying to get in and out of Publix without a plea for money from one of the many panhandlers, I think of new ideas for short stories.
Novellas sort of just develop when my short story refuses to end and I don't feel like cutting and editing the hell out of it. It has gotten me into trouble sometimes, like when They Call the Wind Muryah went over 17,000 words and couldn't be entered into the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest (I trimmed it and received Honorable Mention Top 10% in 2007).
Ironically, I don't like reading short stories as much. I used to, though. Too many aspiring authors are aping what's popular in movies and YA lit (with apologies to Monday's guest blogger Kerri Nelson). I can't find a decent old-school vampire story anymore and the vampires-as-romantics has gotten old real fast (except for Viv, of course, CJ).
It's kind of sad because I really used to read and review short stories on Writing.com. I made suggestions and awarded high gift points for good stories and smaller GP's for effort and encouragement. Then, the stories got more and more monotonous and bad.
And believe me, I know about the subject. My early short stories were based on things like Godzilla, King of the Monsters, Star Trek and Space: 1999. Yeah, they were bad. Really bad. Cliched to the hilt. Characters more wooden than the Tracys and Brains on Thunderbirds. I haven't even had the desire to go back to visit any of them again (though the fact that they were written in pencil on cheap, wide-ruled notebook paper in the 1970's has a lot to do with it).
On a good note, I do want to get back to reading short stories again. I just want them to be readable. If anyone has any good suggestions, I'd be pleased to hear about them...
...or I could just wait until April 20 and read all the entries submitted to Wicked Writers' latest contest (see below):
The Wicked team will be holding a unique contest this month. We're asking our readers to try their own hand at short stories. Entrants submit a non-erotica short story under 3,000 words to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 20th, 2010. First prize is to have your entry critiqued by three members on the team, the story will be posted here on the site, and you'll be invited to guest blog with us in May! Second prize is a critique by two team members and to also have the story posted here on the site. Third prize will be one critique and an honorable mention.