Short Story Revival: True or False?

“… There’s something unsaid, a dread in the air. … And so there it was said, floating up and around in the atmosphere with all the delicious aromas, the superficial chatter and the sounds of cars making their way back into the city for the long work week.” Lori M. Myers Cooking in a Room with Strangers

Fact or fantasy, true or false, is the revival of the short story due in part to the easy access to e-books for reading on a tablet or smartphone? Or is this just a myth? According to Laura Miller, the short story boom is bogus. In response to the New York Times article, Good Fit for Today’s Little Screens: Short Stories, Laura says, “Still, the idea that such programs have led to renewed general interest in reading short stories is, like much of the Times article, speculative and fueled by wishful thinking.” She expands on this here: Sorry the Short Story Boom Is Bogus

The “wishful thinking” comment led me to do some research – it’s what I do, and I didn’t even need to Google; I went straight to Amazon’s bestsellers’ list. I compared Short Stories with the Romance, Fantasy and Science Fiction genres. I also looked at the list of Fiction Classics. You can draw your own conclusions from the results.

Compared to the most popular genre, Romance, short stories are way behind (the #100 bestseller in the Romance genre is ranked higher overall than the #1 bestseller in short stories), but compared with Fantasy and Sci-Fi and, especially, Fiction Classics, short stories do much better as shown in the table below:

Genre

Bestseller List

Overall ranking (Paid in Kindle Store)

Short Stories

#1

#261

Romance

#100

#231

Fantasy

#14

#260

Science Fiction

#12

#259

Fiction Classics

#4, #5

#196,  #531

The #1 bestseller in the Romance genre was overall #1 bestseller on Kindle, and even the #100 bestseller in Romance (#231 overall ranking) ranked higher than the #1 bestseller in the Short Stories category (#261 overall ranking). Romance lived up to its reputation and came out well on top.

However, in the Fantasy bestsellers list, only fourteen books (fourteenth book ranked #260 overall) ranked higher than the top ranked book in Short Stories. Similarly, only twelve books (twelfth book ranked #259 overall) performed better in the Science Fiction genre.

Compared with Fiction Classics, short stories performed well – only four books (fourth book ranked #196 overall, fifth book ranked #531 overall) in the Fiction Classics list ranked higher than the top ranked book in Short Stories.

The evidence suggests that, apart from Romance, short stories in e-book format are now on a par with other popular genres. Readers seem to enjoy the variety that short stories offer interspersed among their favorite authors and books. One reason for this might be that a short story can be read in the space of a bus ride or train journey, especially with all the new forms of electronic reading devices and the increasing number of online e-book retailers.

This revival of the short story in electronic format has created an opportunity for writers that might not have presented itself otherwise. Many new and exciting writers are keen to reach out to readers by providing them with stories that entertain and enthrall. The demand from readers is there and authors are matching it.

FrontThe opening quote above is from the talented writer, Lori Myers. Lori is one of three Pushcart nominees (Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow, Murray Dunlap and Lori M. Myers) who contributed short stories to Forever Families, the third in the Forever series of anthologies – Forever Friends (2008), Forever Travels (2010) and Forever Families (2012).

Lori’s touching story about a sister and brother, who have grown apart, is just one of twenty-seven stories that vary in length from concise to extensive. Every story, whether short or long, offers a unique look at family life. While some are poignant, others raise a smile.

The seven sections that make up the book take the reader through the joys of a happy childhood to the sadness of a death in the family, with fond family memories, faithful family pets, risky family business ventures, eventful family weddings and the ups and downs of family life in between. So, find a comfortable chair, download the book to your e-reader, then sit back and enjoy the diversity of reading experiences in Forever Families.

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Top Ten Publishing Myths by Erin Brown

 

  1. Editors and agents aren’t looking for great writing anymore … it’s all about the almighty dollar.
  1. Self-publishing will make an author a bestseller.
  1. “I don’t need an agent.” 
  1. Publishers take care of all of your marketing and publicity.
  1. Talented authors get huge advances.
  1. Editors will be able to devote most of their time to your book. 
  1. An author should never give up on the submission process, no matter how long it takes.
  1. All published authors should expect to hit a bestseller list or their publishers have failed.
  1. The bigger the agent, the better.
  1. Once your book is sold, you can give up your day job.

Erin Brown worked as an editor in New York City for over eight years. She recently left Manhattan to start her own freelance editorial business. To learn more about Erin, visit her website at www.erinedits.com

Read the full article here:
AuthorMagazine.org – an on-line magazine for writers and readers….

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Writing Contest: Scintillating Starts

Enter Writer Advice’s New Contest: SCINTILLATING STARTS. Grab and hold us with your opening paragraphs.

Deadline: October 15, 2012.

Details at www.writeradvice.com 

If your opening is shared on Writer Advice, you’ll be able to tell prospective agents, publishers, and book buyers that you were one of the winners of Writer Advice’s First Scintillating Starts Contest.

B. Lyn Goodwin, Writer, Advice Managing Editor
Author of You Want Me to Do What? Journaling for Caregivers
www.writeradvice.com

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Sequel out at last!

The sequel to Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine is now available on Amazon’s Kindle.

I’ve had tremendous fun writing this book, the second in the Planemaker series. Dell and Emmelisa are put through their paces again when they decide to take on a gang of cyber criminals. They attend the Cyber Fraud Busters Institute, take scuba diving lessons and enrol on a course at the School of Aquatics to train to become submersible pilots.

With all the training behind them, they set out on their next mission: to fish out the cyber criminals.

This adventure is action packed from the start with never a dull moment for the two young Planemakers. It’s also full of information about cyber crime and how to prevent it. Learning has never been so much fun!

Find it on Amazon.com: Mr. Planemaker’s Diving Machine

Find it on Amazon.co.uk: Mr. Planemaker’s Diving Machine

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The Process of Writing

By Ann Joiner

I have been a writing teacher for, well, thirty years now, since I’ve been tutoring since I retired. The writing needs and skills of high school students are different, in many ways, from those of professionals or working to become professionals. There are some general procedures, though, that apply to all of us, I think.

And my thinking is based, not just on personal experience and observation, but scores and scores of workshops, textbooks, and lectures from those with more knowledge and experience than I could ever have managed on my own.

I’ve learned about many processes that are very different from one another, but one of the points they all have had in common is that writing is a process. The process begins in our heads, with an idea. At the end of most, but not necessarily all, of the processes is a product. The steps in between are not set in stone, but most writing teachers would agree on the basic steps, and that they most often work in a certain order. The steps are sometimes given new names, especially by textbook and workshop developers who are trying to sell a product, and want to convince prospective buyers that they are on to something new.

Generally, though, the steps can be divided into a creating stage, a developing stage, and a finishing stage. (my terms – there are lots of others, including simply a beginning, middle, and end).

The creating stage starts in the writer’s head, with that idea I wrote of above. The idea has to be made tangible by getting it on paper, or today, into a computer. some of us, especially those of us who began writing in a pre-computer era, still begin with a pencil and paper, but more and more are comfortable with a keyboard. Whatever, that idea has to be put in a form that can be read first, by ourselves, the writer, and next, maybe a few trusted readers. At this point we are still a long way from a product that we are willing to put out to a general public. It is important to the quality of the finished product, at this early stage, that we are not overly critical of ourselves. We are in the stage that Anne Lamott, in her book, Bird by Bird: Some instructions on Writing and Life, refers to as “shitty first drafts.” (If you are like I was, you may feel offended the first few times you read that phrase. Our first drafts are so much better than it implies. She is merely trying to remind us that they are first drafts, and once we have them written down, and in enough of a whole piece, we may want to change the wording a bit).

When we do begin to look over what we are writing, as we move into the developing stage, it is generally agreed that it is a good idea to go from general to specific: That paragraph would be better in the introduction, maybe, rather than so near the end, or hidden in the middle. When we have a feel for the general sequence, then we can start to look at our sentence structures – their syntax, only, though. It’s a bit early for grammar and mechanics. They are part of the finishing. Developing is about sequencing, and adding or subtracting stuff, creating a flow for our ideas as we make them into a story. Once we have the complete story, told in the style and order we feel is most effective, we move from development into finishing. It is only here, and not until we get here, that we worry about the smaller stuff: Are our adjectives descriptive enough? Have we appealed to all of our readers senses that are appropriate to the tone and mood of the piece? Are their still bits where we might show more and tell less? And finally, Have we used the proper mechanics: periods, semi-colons, commas, etc. in a way that makes our intent clear? At this point, if you’re on a computer, and most of us are at this stage in this day, it’s okay to run a spell-check. Remember, though, that you can’t rely on it to catch everything. One technique that I learned early on was to go through the piece backwards. Too often, we “see” what we meant to write, rather than what we actually typed.

If this seems to be too cut and dried, an over-simplification, it probably is. I should add that the parts of the process are recursive, and each flows into the other, with no clear line of where one stops and the other starts.  Some writers, especially with longer works, like to complete the process on bits at a time, some go back and forth, other do better just plowing though the whole creation before looking back at it and reflecting on changes.

At some point in the process, we individually reach our personal point where our writing becomes more reader-directed than writer-directed. The more we move into that “reader-directed” phase, the more we probably ought to muster the courage to share and ask for suggestions. This step is easier for some writers than it is for others. Our first readers function a bit like teachers.

And here, I’d like to shift gears a little, and focus on that function of being an early reader of a fellow writers work. As a classroom teacher, I learned, both from experience and training, that it is important to the writer’s finished product, that we give our advice and suggestions based on (a) where the writer is in the process, and that we focus, first, on (b) what we see as being positive in the writing. After we have encouraged the writer by pointing out the really good stuff, we can be helpful by giving our impression as a reader, of what might need more clarification, or be more interesting if it were presented in a different manner. And we need to be clear in our own minds, when we offer advice that involves making changes, that we have not allowed our own egos to get in the way.

Diversity, we are beginning to learn, is a good thing. Writers have diverse styles, too. The more fluent writers can often be recognized by their unique style. It is not our job as readers to attempt to impose our style onto another’s writing.

Now, all that being said, when a writer wants to be published and paid for what they’ve written, a point arrives where the work has to go to an outside editor. That editor ought to be someone who understands the markets, genres, and what the average reader will be willing to pay for. To my way of thinking, this is not what most writers, in the WIP stages, are looking for when they first put their creations out to readers. Not everyone has the qualifications and credentials to be an editor, and those who do, generally, I would think, would want to be paid. I think that most writers, when they get the courage to post a WIP or concept, are looking for an early reader’s advice rather than an editor’s advice. Maybe not, but it might help if we are clear about which hat we are wearing when we give advice and, if we are giving editorial advice, that we share those qualifications and credentials. As writers looking for advice from our fellows, we might want to be specific about whether or not we are looking for developmental feedback from what I’ve called “early readers,” or for editorial advice from critical readers who have experience in helping a writer achieve that professional finished product.

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How to Find an Agent

Linton Robinson, an American expatriate who has spun off several different writing careers, is published as a novelist, essayist, poet, journalist, foreign correspondent, and copywriter.

On his blog, Lin gives advice on how to find an agent. Key points include:

  • Find out who represents the writers whose work is most like yours or appeals to your target audience.
  • Search Google intelligently to try to find the agent who represented the book or author.
  • Cruise those books in the bookstore or library — often writers, especially in their first book, will have dedications to their wonderful agents in the front or back of the book.
  • Find the agents online.
  • Follow the guidelines: most agency sites have guidelines for querying them.

Looking for agent databases? Check out Lin’s list:

SEARCHING FOR YOUR AGENT (When he doesn’t want to be found)

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Is Writing Replacing Reading?

I’ve been reading a lot recently, which got me thinking. So, what was I thinking? I was thinking about all these books that most people believe they have in them.

I received a phone call recently from a call centre trying to sell accident insurance. The young woman asked me what I did for a living. I said I was a writer. “Oh,” she replied, “is that right? What have you written? A book?” I said that I had written a couple of books. “I must have a go at that someday,” she said. “They say that we all have a book in us, don’t they?” I said that they did indeed say that we all have a book in us.

I don’t think they say it quite so often these days. Probably because they want the book that is inside them to actually become a book. Instead of saying that we have all got a book inside us, they write it out and then start looking around for a publisher. Not satisfied with a stack of rejections, they find ways through the Internet of seeing their work printed and bound and, voilá, they have a book.

This is the new millennium with new technology that is readily available to everyone. Reading books is going out of fashion while writing books has become the thing to do.

PublishAmerica may have been one of the first to print anything that was correctly formatted and could be converted easily into a PDF file. They are not the last. “Traditional” publishers are springing up all over the ‘net. There is a market out there to be tapped and companies are taking advantage of the growing market.

Where does this leave mid-list authors? It leaves them fighting to find readers because their readers have become writers. Where’s the fun in reading someone else’s thoughts when you can write down and publish your own?

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