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The Short Reality of Shorts

This week (yesterday, in fact) is the release of MacKenzie Publishing’s first anthology, OUT OF THE CAVE: twenty-one stories by twenty-one writers suitable for youth 13+. Suspense, mystery, horror, supernatural…what more could a teenager (or adult) want? And, for those of you in the Atlantic Provinces, you will recognize Nova Scotia’s Steve Vernon, who wrote the Foreword. OUT OF THE CAVE is available as an e-book and print book on Amazon and Smashwords



Hope Clark has graciously written today’s guest post, “The Short Reality of Shorts,” which (coincidentally) coincides with the release of MacKenzie Publishing’s book of short stories. Hope is an inspiration to all writers! Her blog http://www.FundsForWriters.com is always pertinent and reaches 35,000 readers every week. And her books are well received. What more could an author want? (Further info on Hope and her books is at the end of this post.)

Thank you, Hope, for this post!


The Short Reality of Shorts by Hope Clark

As a writer, short pieces scare me. As a six-time novelist and one-time nonfiction book author, I find comfort in longer prose. But I have to admit . . . there’s no writing more profound that a short that snaps in its delivery.

Short fiction, flash fiction, memoir, and essays. It takes intense craft to make those pieces zing. So when the Killer Nashville mystery conference asked that I contribute to their mystery anthology, I almost choked. Sure, I write mystery . . . 100,000-word mysteries. But to take crime, clues, and characters and mold them into a 3,000-word package, scared me senseless. But I accepted the challenge.

And I think “Rich Talk” turned into some of my best writing.

Every novelist sooner or later pens a short story. And those shorts, while, um, short, often become more memorable than longer works. Ask Stephen King. Shorts exercise different writing muscles. The reader isn’t allowed a lull, and each sentence carries more weight. But that twist in the end . . . that wow factor . . . shows the power of words, and therefore, the power of you as a writer. Shorts must deliver serious oomph.

Anthologies of shorts can be power houses. With anthologies ranging anywhere from ten to maybe fifty stories, each tale has to represent the theme with enough talent to make the reader want to read the others. A heavy responsibility upon each author as well as the editor compiling the collection. But when an editor has a keen eye, and the slush pile of stories is great and deep, an anthology can turn into an admirable portfolio credit for all involved. And a treasure trove for readers.

Memoir and creative nonfiction hold the same responsibility, and the same demands are made of their authors. Though the pieces may be taken from reality, like the myriad Chicken Soup anthology tales, they must still read like a short story with a solid beginning, middle, and nice-and-tight swing around ending. Reading like good fiction, creative nonfiction recalls a moment and spins it into a concise, well-told tale. It just happens to be steeped in real life.

So many writers start with shorts because book-length material rattles them. The thought of so many chapters intimidates them. Me? I’m just the opposite because I know the tight, well-constructed thought process that goes into a successful short. And every time I read one that resonates, that tells a story with a snap, crackle, and pop, I so wish I’d written it.

I’ve just released Echoes of Edisto, the third book in my Edisto Island Mysteries, and I’ll continue writing my books, but here and there now I’ll make myself create a short. Why? Because those muscles need exercising, and the sharpness of talent that goes into a short is admirable indeed. I also want to be that kind of writer.


BIO: Hope Clark is founder of FundsforWriters.com, a newsletter and website that reaches 35,000 readers every Friday. She is also author of the Carolina Slade Mysteries and the Edisto Island Mysteries, with the newest release being Echoes of Edisto. www.chopeclark.com

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