Thursday, February 28, 2013

Short Fiction for love, not money


A good few months ago, I posed the question of what I should work on next since the second novel was finished. Well, it turned out I wasn’t quite done with the book, for a variety of reasons. I edited, fiddled and tinkered for a few more months until it was done mid-December. I then found myself too busy writing my organization’s annual report and bucket loads of press releases to have any headspace for fiction in the morning/evening.

Work has finally calmed down, so I now have a bit more time to write, and I am coming back to what to write next. Truth be told, I’m still not quite done with the second novel as little ideas to improve it keep popping up, but since it’s with the publisher I’m going to hold off on further. If the publisher takes it, then there will an opportunity to monkey around with the text during the editorial process. Instead, I am going to spend a few months returning to short stories.

You probably wouldn’t expect a man who wrote a book about zombie cows to enjoy writing serious literary fiction, but that’s where I started out and that’s where I have decided to return. I think I need the change of pace and deadline to get myself going again, and short stories also have a way of forcing you to focus on the value of every word. This is useful for going back to novels, as the extra space can lend itself to flabbiness if you aren’t careful.

My first task is to put something together for the Bridport Prize, and after much back-and-forth between two pieces I’ve settled on which one to develop – a decision made largely on the basis of likely length. It’s one of the toughest competitions in the world to win, and I do not hold out any real hope of getting to the latter stages, but the beauty of entering is that it forces you to put your all into creating an excellent story, which you will still have after the competition is over and somebody much better than you has won.

After that, I have about five stories to develop. The long-term goal is to build up a body of work of sufficient quality for a collection, although this is where the problem of the difference in styles comes in. My short stories are, on the whole, very different from my novels,and the rigid application of genre-thinking that applies in the publishing industry could well derail any attempts on my part to get a collection published. Also, the sad fact is that short story collections often don't sell well. A writer friend of mine, who released an amazing collection after placing highly in the Bridport and winning all sorts of competitions, only sold a few hundred copies in a couple of years. Still, I write largely for the love of fiction rather than to make money, so if my short stories never see the light of day at least I will have had a lot of fun creating them

Finally, if you want to see how different my short fiction is from the insanity of Apocalypse Cow, you can read a few here.

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