Short stories

Short and sweet

Short stories are an excellent way to get into the habit of writing. They provide bite-sized projects that are more easily achievable than novels.

Many writers specialise in short stories, confident in the knowledge that a good short story is a work of art, succinct, resonant and satisfying.

If you set yourself the task of writing a short story, you are more likely to write economically. Who knows, if it goes well, you might be able to expand it to novel length – although the short story is not a kind of mini-novel: both genres have their own quite distinct characteristics.

Short story to screenplay

Many film scripts are based on short stories rather than novels. Films taken from novels often have to strip out great deal from the plot and the characterisation, whereas short stories can supply the right measure in both these demands.

Publication

It is said that it is more difficult to find a publisher for short stories than for novels. Well, it is not exactly easy to find a publisher for a novel either, and short stories have that advantage that they can at least find outlets in various magazines.

The traditional wisdom suggests that the reading public is less keen to buy collections of short stories than novels, but the tide is turning on this supposition. A change of attitude was clearly signalled when the Canadian short-story writer Alice Munro was awarded the biennial Man Booker International Prize in 2009. 

Short story prizes

There are a number of literary prizes specifically designed to encourage short-story writing. The odds for winning literary prizes are never good, but at least they can focus the mind with a target and deadline. Here are two of them:

The VS Pritchett Memorial Prize, administered by the Royal Society of Literature: www.rslit.org

The Bridport Prize (for short stories and poetry): www.bridportprize.org.uk

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