I'm a fan of Wikipedia for general research, not quotable text. It's a great place to start, as it usually has a great compilation of information from other sources. Often, when I Google a question, Wikipedia is the first page to pop up. So I tend to begin my search on the most “clicked on” page, and then I dig deeper based on my findings. In the case of my mysteries, especially where the cause of death and ways to die are an essential part of the story, I seek out scientific journals and experts in that specific field. There, that's my disclosure. On to my blog post. :)
Recently, I had a quick question on the popularity of short stories. I agreed with Wikipedia until I read ... "Sometimes, authors who do not have the time or money to write a novella or novel decide to write short stories instead..." — Wikipedia
Umm ... wrong! How on earth does a short story cost less? Most authors spend the same dollar amount on their cover, and it doesn't cost anything to upload it to Amazon. Time ... maybe ... but even that seems silly, as authors who write short stories, usually write many of them. I think authors write short stories because they enjoy writing short stories, especially in between large projects or while waiting for their editor or publisher to finish reading their current project.
"Short stories date back to oral storytelling traditions which originally produced epics such as Homer's Iliad and Odyssey circa 7th or 8th century" — Wikipedia, again (I didn't see the need to research further.)
Charles Dickens and Washington Irving — who were famous for novels and biographies — wrote short stories and, of course, Edgar Allan Poe argued that a literary work should be short enough for a reader to finish in one sitting. And yet, when I went looking for advertising, I found it almost impossible to find a website that was willing to promote my short stories ... even if I were willing to pay the same amount as I would to advertise a full novel. I also noticed many publishers refuse to publish short stories, which as far as money goes, I can understand that. They would have to shell out money for a cover for little return.
And now for the craziest thought, considering what Wikipedia said about money. I wrote my short stories, knowing I was going to give them away. Yep. I wrote my first short, The Pit Stop (This Stop Could be Life or Death), as an exercise in “pantsing” versus “plotting” and to have fun with my readers, which a lot of them happened to be authors. I wrote five hundred words a week on my website, and then asked readers where we should go next. When I finished, I informed them I'd publish it and pay tribute to my top contributors.
But then something happened! My lovely readers demanded more — I love it when that happens. Per readers' requests, I wrote The Depot (When Life and Death Cross Tracks). And then, based on those two short stories — again per readers' demands — I wrote a follow-up novel, The Library (Where Life Checks Out).
And with no awesome book advertising, but because of word of mouth from some great readers, The Pit Stop and The Depot hit #1 in Mystery Short Stories and spent plenty of time in the top 100 in the last few years. When I received my rights back from my publisher, I had to re-upload them. Again they the hit #1 and #2 spots! The Pit Stop is still available as a free download, but I decided to combine The Depot with its follow-up novel, The Library, so readers wouldn't happenstance on The Library and miss the set up.
My thoughts on short stories: An average movie is one and a half to two hours long, and yet, it can still convey a full life — from birth to death — of a character. We can solve a ten-year-old murder mystery, or view a first date as it matures into marriage and kids. So why wouldn't I like a quick escape when I'm sitting at the DMV, waiting in the doctor's office, or a hundred other places where we waste hours of our time? The answer is: I do like that. In fact, I love it! I've read many short stories on car trips across the state, flights, and waiting while my car gets serviced.
Side note...have you noticed how many movies are based on short stories?
Short stories are a great way to meet an author without a long-term commitment or a nice release when you need just a little escape before going to bed, since there's no risk of staying up too late to finish the story, as most short stories take less than an hour to read.
Well, that's it. Just my thoughts on why I write and read short stories. And so you know, I would never think to compare myself to the "greats" I mentioned above; they were just my point that short stories can be great and are an art. I have a long way to go, but my short stories do have hundreds of reviews averaging four-plus stars. So if you want to try one on for size, you can download The Pit Stop (This Stop Could be Life or Death) absolutely FREE from your favorite retailer. I hope you enjoy this quick escapes from reality!
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Thank you for reading my musings. Remember, these are just my opinions and shouldn't be taken too seriously. If you have questions, please feel free to leave them in the comment section, and I promise you I will answer. If you're curious about what I write, please visit one of my author pages, where you can read all about my novels and short stories. And hey, I'll even give you a couple free full-length novels just for stopping by.
As always, happy reading, friends.