Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Do You Wear Short Shorts?

Okay, silly title. Couldn't think of one. I dropped off Glenn at the dentist to get his top teeth pulled. It's the last of his torture, supposedly, and then he'll be recovering for about two weeks, writhing in pain on the bed.

So I'm all nervous, because he's nervous, and you know how you kinda feel what your loved one feels and get to share in it?

image I went to Starbucks, and I'm very sorry that I didn't know that a large was called a Venti. But give me a break: did the girl taking my order really not know what a large was?

Pseudonym found a new market, which is rare for her little niche. So yesterday, when she was being too wimpy to ride the emotional roller coaster of her current WIP, I (um, how do I segue back into first person?) wrote a short story.

It irritates me to no end when you have no idea, no ballpark figure, of what a publisher will pay. How are you supposed to even know if it's worth your time? And even if directly asked, they won't share it with you. Kinda annoys me, to be honest.

Which gets me to my post, LOL. Short stories are difficult. I've sold close to fifty now, and I was editing them this summer for a collection. I was appalled at myself: 80-90% of them were self-indulgent.

And that is my problem with some short stories: they are often self-indulgent writing experiments with no thought to the reader and his/her experience. They are a little riff on a theme, a little writer's toy.

image Then you've got the "clever" short stories, the ones that cry, "look how clever I am!" And then there are the ones that try to be a private joke between writers, trying to separate the "ones who get it" from the "ones who don't."

Do I sound snarky? I'm quite harsh with my self-criticism, LOL, so keep in mind most of this is self-directed.

A good short story should give the reader something other than monkey speak.

So what do you think of short stories? Do you ever indulge in them for yourself? For readers? How do you feel about reading them?

Do you get nervous when your partner is nervous?

I forgot my grateful again! At least I forgot that I forgot. I'm told that's the first step in creating a new habit.

Today I am grateful for Glenn's hugs, and his arms that wrap all the way around me and hold me close.

53 bonus scribbles:

WendyCinNYC 12/03/2008 11:25:00 AM  

I love short stories. I'd rather write them than novels, frankly. John Cheever is one of my favorite ss writers. And, of course, Flannery. But I like current ones from nobodies, too.

And I refuse to say "venti," even though I know that's what they call a large. It's stupid. They can't make me say it!

spyscribbler 12/03/2008 11:29:00 AM  

Oh, but they try, Wendy! Man, this one acted like she would not enter my order UNTIL I actually called it a Venti correctly. It incited my stubborn streak!

I've never read any of their short stories. I do tend to stick to genre fiction when it comes to shorts, but I'm going to have to try those.

Honestly, I love the short story, although my post may not seem like it. I love it to death.

Lauren 12/03/2008 01:06:00 PM  

Part of the fun of starbucks is the crazy names.
Triple Venti Non-Fat Cinnamon Dolce Latte is my favorite. Sad that I spend over $5 for a coffee.

What's worse is they call their smalls a "tall". It's not tall, it's the littlest they have.

Mark Terry 12/03/2008 01:06:00 PM  

I find writing short stories almost impossible, but have no prob writing short nonfiction. Go figure. I also have problems reading short fiction, but no problem reading short nonfiction. I suppose there's a correlation.

Janna Qualman 12/03/2008 01:25:00 PM  

I think snarky has its place. ;)

My hubby doesn't get "nervous," per se, but I stress out when he's stressed.

Avery DeBow 12/03/2008 01:32:00 PM  

I don't do short stories all that often. I don't usually like the way they turn out. I've never analyzed them to see if they're crap of the self-indulgent kind or not, they just are, and that's enough for me to put them away and not look at them again.

I tend to pick up others' emotions and make them my own. Nasty habit.

Zoe Winters 12/03/2008 02:06:00 PM  

I don't usually write short stories. With the exception of the erotic short story I entered into the contest, I hadn't really written one in years.

Robin 12/03/2008 02:47:00 PM  

Poor Glenn! That sounds awful! And poor you, because men don't make great patients. (I might be unfairly generalizing there.)

I'm with Wendy. I won't say venti and they can't make me!

spyscribbler 12/03/2008 03:35:00 PM  

Wow, Lauren, that is a mouthful! That is kinda funny.

And you are SO right about the "talls." That's just plain silly! Do they think we consumers won't know it's small just because they call it tall?

spyscribbler 12/03/2008 03:36:00 PM  

Sounds like a correlation to me, Mark! As much as I love reading and writing short stories, I think I only actually like 10 to 30%.

spyscribbler 12/03/2008 03:38:00 PM  

Janna, I've never seen my husband nervous before, which is why I was a little freaked. Afterwards, he was practically in tears, which, again, I've never seen him in.

Hopefully he'll be better soon!

spyscribbler 12/03/2008 03:41:00 PM  

Avery, I'm the same way. I don't know what it is. It's like I draw it into myself. It's a horrible habit! I've been visualizing a mirror in front of myself, lately.

spyscribbler 12/03/2008 03:47:00 PM  

Zoe, I've learned a lot from writing short stories, over the years. It's been awhile for me, but it feels good to be back!

spyscribbler 12/03/2008 03:49:00 PM  

Robin, they make terrible patients! And you'd think that misery would make them more sympathetic, but it DOESN'T! They drive me nuts, all around, LOL!

LaDonna 12/03/2008 03:52:00 PM  

Spy, I love your grateful today! My hubby has the best body heat on the planet. In the winter, it's like sleeping next to a toasty fireplace! :)

The only shorts I read these days are those holiday anthologies. Just love them, and it's so convenient with the busy time.

And yep, I feel my hubby's pain too. I hope Glenn heals quickly. And I didn't have a clue what a Venti was. There's a Starbucks across town, but you wouldn't know it in my neck of the woods. lol.

spyscribbler 12/03/2008 03:58:00 PM  

LaDonna, Glenn used to be like, but then he started taking medicine for his blood pressure, and now he's always cold!

He loves those holiday anthologies! Which is why I never get to read them.

Jenna 12/03/2008 04:28:00 PM  

I have one story that kicks around in my brain now and then and the only thing I could make out of it would be a short story...but I don't think I'd ever be a regular short story writer.

But maybe that's because I've never been able to get into short stories...I've read a few here and there but they don't usually do much for me.

That said, I just picked up The Complete Collection of Flannery O'Connor, wanted to see what she's so famous for, and I read just one story so far, her very first, Geranium (I'm pretty sure it is) and it was brilliant. I would love to do what she does but in novel form.

Oh, and at Starbucks I make them say the size to me...I look at the them and say, "I'd like a latte and what's the equivalent of a medium?" And lo and behold they have to tell me :).

Kath Calarco 12/03/2008 04:33:00 PM  

Spy, your poor hubby! Hope he gets through ok.

I've never attempted to write a short story. I'm lucky if I can keep a manuscript under 150,000 words, lol.

But, I like reading the shorties, which I got into this past semester in Eng. Lit.

P.S. I stick with Dunkin Donuts - they get small, medium and large. :)

Rachel Burton 12/03/2008 05:03:00 PM  

I always say "large" at Starbucks. I know it's a venti; it's just my little form of rebellion at the silly lingo they try to push on us!

And I'm always a good person to commiserate about tooth ills. I've had more root canals than I'll ever to admit to.

As for short stories, I need to start reading more of the, since so many of my writer friends are working on them. I'm a huge fan of Roald Dahl's creepy and twisted shorts. And Flannery O'Connor is another favorite as well!

Rick 12/03/2008 05:08:00 PM  

Sorry to hear about Glenn. Please give him my best wishes. I was walked in the jaw with a two by four and spent some time with the dental folks. Not fun.

Regarding the other areao of pain- short stories- I think it's like the relationship between tennis and handball. If you're a tennis player, racquetball ruins your game. If you're a racquetball player, tennis is of the devil since it ruins your racquetball game.

If that makes sense. An old man once told me that it's hard to walk forward and backward at the same time.

lainey bancroft 12/03/2008 05:33:00 PM  

((Hugs to Glenn and you!)) Hope he heals quickly.

We don't have a Starbucks here in Nowheresville. Just as well, I probably couldn't afford it.

I write short stories everytime I lose focus on a full length story. (So I have lots of 'em ;-)
I find it a good way to prove I can get through beginning-middle-end in a limited amount of time. Makes me feel like I've accomplished something, ya know?I'll probably never do anything with the majority of them...or I might.

Eric Mayer,  12/03/2008 06:16:00 PM  

My commiserations to Glenn. To me, that sounds like a nightmare.

I tend to hate most modern short stories because mostly they do strike me as exercises in self-indulgence. Mary and I have sold maybe 20 stories, all mysteries, and all real mysteries, with a puzzle, characters, plot etc. No pointless vignettes designed to show off our literary brilliance. Generally, if I'm writing something short, I'd prefer to write an essay though.

writtenwyrdd 12/03/2008 06:54:00 PM  

when I must go to Starbucks, I make a point of saying "extra large" to them and getting snotty when they try and correct me. I hate that nose-in-the-air frigging elitist naming of paper damned cups!

As far as stories sometimes being "writer's toys" that is such a great concept! I'd never thought of them that way, but some are way too clever and precious. Mostly not, IMO, but still, there's some of that.

I'm focusing on writing short stories with my limited writing time so that I can work on being a better story teller. On crafting plot that's driving and tight-meshed. I think short stories can teach you a lot, and you can put them to bed without getting lost in a tangle of ideas.

writtenwyrdd 12/03/2008 06:55:00 PM  

I forgot to add that I hope your hubs is feeling okay in the aftermath of dental treatments!

Melanie Avila 12/03/2008 07:14:00 PM  

Spy, I hope he heals quickly. I'm sure it's tough on both of you right now.

I think I told you I wrote my first short story yesterday (as an adult) so this is timely. I've always wanted to write them but rarely read them, so I haven't been sure where to start. This idea just popped in my head so hopefully I can keep doing that.

As for Starbucks, I have to say I knew there was a reason I love Jenna. :) I always just say I want a small and have never had a problem. Maybe because it rhymes with tall? Who knows.

Edie 12/03/2008 07:34:00 PM  

At least the worst is over for Glenn. I hope the dentist gave him good drugs.

I've sold 11 short stories, but I haven't written them for years. It wasn't what I wanted in the long run, but they do make good credits.

Angie 12/03/2008 09:19:00 PM  

Well, four of my five publications so far are short stories (or all five if you count a novelette as a "short") so... yeah, I do short stories. :D

About the self-indulgent thing, you know, I've read novels like that too. It takes more time and effort to write a self-indultent novel, but it's certainly not something confined to short story writers. Heck, entire series have been self-indulgent. Twilight, anyone...? [cough]

And note also that self-indulgent doesn't necessarily mean unsuccessful. [wry smile]

Another good thing about shorts is that when you're going for humor, it's more likely to work in a shorter form than a longer one. There aren't all that many novels which are crack-up funny from beginning to end, but there are plenty of crack-up funny shorts. I've written some funny shorts, actually, and I can't really imagine stretching the humor out for 80K+ words. O_O

I really regret that the short story market these days is so weak. Gone are the days when you could support yourself writing short stories, even in markets which are reasonably healthy on the fiction magazine side, like SF. My (electronic) publisher is one of the few that takes single short stories, as opposed to just filling novel-sized anthologies like most other publishers do, but I still can't imagine making a living with them there.

It's a pity, really, because a well-done short is a great chunk of fiction.


colbymarshall 12/03/2008 11:45:00 PM  

Hahah...there is a scene in the new movie Role Models concerning the term "venti" as a coffee size. Pretty should go see it!

Christina 12/04/2008 02:52:00 AM  

So far I don't speak Starbucks and haven't had a problem with that yet. I think that's pretty darn good. I saw what I want, they correct me, I wiggle my hand at them like, "Yeah, that one" and then we're in business.

As for feeling what your loved one feels. Yeah, I have that. If he can't sleep, I tend to be restless too because I want to sit up with him and I just worry.

Persistent Pen 12/04/2008 07:49:00 AM  

I have never stepped foot in a Starbucks, I refuse to pay that for caffeine products.

Short stories are great. I read short to very short fiction and I enjoy it all.

I think the SS is about the only way one can build a reputation of any worth. It is how Stephen King started and every author I have read has explored it at one time or another.

Pink Ink 12/04/2008 08:22:00 AM  

I love writing short stories. Yesterday, I wrote one and it just came out of the blue (well, inspired by a writer friend's post) and it's always satisfying when I can end it with a surprise.

It's a great accomplishment/break while trying to finish the long and winding novel :-)

spyscribbler 12/04/2008 10:00:00 AM  

Jenna, I'm going to have to seek her short stories out. I usually stick with spec fic short stories, but I need to broaden my horizons.

spyscribbler 12/04/2008 10:01:00 AM  

Kath, I do love short stories, I'll admit. Maybe it's just the plethora of ones on the internet meant to prove how clever one is that drive me crazy.

I just love a good story... I'm just note interested in clever. Usually. Sometimes, though!

StarvingWriteNow 12/04/2008 10:01:00 AM  

NO, I definitely do not wear short-shorts.

And my writing was, of course, self-indulgent at the core. Isn't that what it's about, really? You're feeding your own need?

spyscribbler 12/04/2008 10:02:00 AM  

Rachel, I just had two. The guy took FIVE MONTHS to do those two, so now I think the cavity he was going to do after has turned into a root canal, too. GRRRR!

Dahl. You guys have recommended many short storyists I haven't read. I love a good short story! I can't wait to discover these new ones!

spyscribbler 12/04/2008 10:04:00 AM  

Rick, OUCH! Ohmigosh, why is it that dental stuff hurts so much? Poor Glenn was teary-eyed, and he never gets that way.

This isn't the same old man in your fable, is it? :-)

It's interesting. I've met some short story tellers who tell a novel in chapters of short stories. It works pretty good, sometimes.

spyscribbler 12/04/2008 10:07:00 AM  

Lainey, you should! I think short stories are a great way to learn story form, an awesome practice and a great tool. I was just annoyed at myself yesterday, nothing more. :-)

We have a Starbucks, but I only go when he's at the dentist and there's no where else for me to go and write. I'm not into $5 hot chocolate with soy!

spyscribbler 12/04/2008 10:08:00 AM  

Eric, yes, yes, that's it! I see it particularly on the internet, on these little flash fiction or short story contests. I bet I'd love reading your short stories. I do love short stories a lot.

spyscribbler 12/04/2008 10:10:00 AM  

Written, I agree completely with everything you said. They are an excellent tool, and it is great for a writer to be self-indulgent at times.

I just wish the ones published were not that way. But again, lately, I've been reading a bunch online. I shouldn't judge the whole art form by unedited stuff. :-) Although, from the ones in books, I usually only like 30 - 60% of the collection. I'm tough to please, LOL. I hate almost all of mine.

spyscribbler 12/04/2008 10:11:00 AM  

No, you didn't tell me that, Melanie! Did you? That is really cool. I love writing short stories. And they are quickly finished, which is wonderful when a whole novel just takes ages and ages.

Good method on handling the Starbucks!

spyscribbler 12/04/2008 10:12:00 AM  

Edie, you should share them! Do you have the rights back, or are they still out there somewhere? That'd be a cool offering on your website, wouldn't it?

I do love short stories, I really do. I was just snarking at myself, really.

spyscribbler 12/04/2008 10:14:00 AM  

Angie, I got my start with short stories, too. I think I've sold near fifty, now. Sometimes we'd all decide to play on a certain theme, which was great fun. But I go back now, and I just think I lost the reader in the equation of those stories.

They are a great thing. I didn't mean to give the impression otherwise. I wouldn't take back learning my craft that way, certainly not!

spyscribbler 12/04/2008 10:14:00 AM  

Colby, I almost saw that the other weekend! We ended up not going to see any movies, but I'll have to put that at the top of my list!

spyscribbler 12/04/2008 10:17:00 AM  

Christina, that cracks me up: "I don't speak Starbucks."

HAH! That really cracks me up! He slept well last night. When he's in the midst of terrible allergies, his breath whistles all night long. He used to stop breathing all the time, and I would stay awake and push him until he took a breath.

Is that crazy? But I'd stay awake for HOURS.

spyscribbler 12/04/2008 10:18:00 AM  

Persistent, I don't normally do Starbucks, either, just when there's no where else for me to go and work while Glenn is at the dentist.

I love the short story, I don't mean to say otherwise. It's a great tool, plus a great way for a writer to learn and develop their storytelling skill. I was just mainly snarking at myself.

spyscribbler 12/04/2008 10:19:00 AM  

Pink, I LOVE when that happens! And it is such a wonderful thing to be able to finish a short story in a day or two, such a relief after pounding away at a novel for week after week with no end in sight!

spyscribbler 12/04/2008 10:20:00 AM  

Writenow, maybe you're right. And it's true: I got addicted to writing because if I got the story out and on the paper, then I could sleep at night!

dommy 12/04/2008 02:38:00 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dominique 12/04/2008 02:40:00 PM  

I'm with y'all on the not speaking Starbucks! Large is large...and I always ask for a large ice tea when I visit Starbucks. That may go a long way to explaining why I usually go to Caribou Coffee when there is one of those around...large is large there :)

Ooops...half the time I forget to post my comments this way, hence the removed comment from "dommy" and this repost...sorry.

Barbara Martin 12/05/2008 12:57:00 AM  

I have been trying my hand at short stories in the hope that this may help me land an agent to sell my novels. In some ways they are more difficult to write than a novel with the limited amount of words available.

As to my short stories being self-indulgent, I would have to say no. I have been taking workable chunks out of my manuscripts and tweaking them into a smaller story that is self-contained.

Starbucks coffee? I don't drink that kind.

Angie 12/05/2008 03:25:00 AM  

Barbara -- my understanding is that agents aren't interested in short stories (the pay is too low for their 15% to be worth considering) and don't care about them one way or the other when they're considering a client. It's all about the novel manuscript you're pitching right at that moment. If you have a particular agent in mind who does consider short stories, then ignore this :) but in general, shorts won't help you get an agent.


spyscribbler 12/05/2008 03:35:00 PM  

Barbara, they do force one to be vivid with every sentence, don't they? It's one of the beauties of the form.

Makes me think I need to go back and sharpen my skills with them again.

spyscribbler 12/05/2008 03:37:00 PM  

LOL, Dominique, I hear you! I usually don't do any coffee place, but there was nowhere else to go. I've always thought Caribou looks cool, but have never gotten around to trying.