Monday, March 28, 2011

On short stories

I’ll be honest. I don’t write the kinds of short stories that sell. While I’ve sold four novels and one novella, I think I’ve managed one short story (at least that I can recall with any great clarity). I had a flash piece entitled Night Driving that went into Frightening Journeys a good while ago.

Although this had been intended as flash fiction, and featured vampire accidentally tangling with the infamous Uniondale phantom hitchhiker, I later developed this into a novel. I still haven’t decided whether I’m going to revise Camdeboo Nights. It had some nice ideas, like a vampire with an overt fondness of his 1948 Hudson Commodore. But it sucked badly because it lacked focus.

But let me not break my heart over old cars or mothballed novels... because since writing that story I went out and bought myself a 1949 Hudson Super Six. My dream car is now sadly stalled in its renovations, slowly subsiding into a pile of rust on a friend’s property. Life imitating art and all that… And that novel is languishing on my hard drive.

I used to live under the impression that I first needed to kick-start a successful writing career by writing and selling short stories. This is bollocks, as clearly illustrated by my current tally of sales since I sold my first novel at the end of 2008.

The short story is an odd beast. People seem to be under the impression that it’s easy writing short stories compared to longer works. This is so wrong. An effective short story has some sort of twist. Go read some Roald Dahl and Saki. Those two were masters of their art. I can’t even begin to aspire to them.

Short stories are also useful for authors wishing to hone their craft before they write that big novel precisely because they’re easy to critique and revise. But my advice: don’t break your heart if you don’t break into the short story market.

I may be no Saki, but I still occasionally write short stories for my own entertainment. These are little prequels or postscripts to my existing longer narratives. And you know what? I write them because they’re fun. I write them so I can share them with my readers, freely.

Yesterday I put up an older piece I wrote about two years ago before I wrote my latest urban fantasy release, The Namaqualand Book of the Dead. It gives a little back story for the setting. It’s all about having a moral dilemma and it features my favourite genre fiction critters that have been so defanged in contemporary popular media.

I’m all about putting the Machiavelli back into the undead. After all, what else is there to do when eternity stretches ahead of you?

And, after that, if the mood nibbles, go forth and check out The Namaqualand Book of the Dead here:

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