I’ve been hooked on writing for a long time. I started short, unlike most of my friends. I think short stories can be more powerful, deliver a stronger sucker punch, and stay with you longer than most novels because they have to make an impact with so few words. For a while, I worried that short fiction would disappear, there are so few markets for it these days. That surprised me. In an age when people want results five minutes ago, I thought short stories would flourish. For a small amount of time, you get the whole package deal–a character you care about, a solid plot, emotional pay-off, and a strong ending. But then I began to suspect that people have so many “quick” things in their lives–thirty minute sitcoms, reality shows, and the internet–that when they sit down to read, they want to immerse themselves in another world, to stay with those characters for a while. They want to get to know them, to live in their skins.
There are short stories that will stay with me forever, though. Robert Reed, often found in the Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine has a few of them. I wish I would have saved one of his about clones sent off to explore foreign universes–it still haunts me, though I don’t remember its title. Nancy Pickard can have that effect on me, too (I loved the defunct Sisters in Crime anthologies), Kathe Koja (great in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror anthologies), Theodore Sturgeon (I love his anthology E Pluribus Unicorn), and Les Edgerton (especially his anthology Monday’s Meal). Because each of these masterpieces are nugget-sized, I retain each whole.
I’m a fan of novellas, too. Again, because of their size. In 10,000 to 20,000 words (if I remember right), they deliver an entire story–complete with plot, subplots, major characters and minor ones, and setting. I can read them at one sitting and walk away, satisfied. My favorites, at the moment, are found in the urban fantasy aisle.
My reading preferences were my writing ones. I started out short, stretched myself to 20,000 words, and almost didn’t survive writing my first novel (a whole 60,000 words). Ironically, when a publisher bought it, she cut it down to 30,000 for an experiment she was trying, newspaper-styled mini-novels to sell at airports–a quick read while you flew from point A to point B. I thought that would go. What do I know?
The thing is, I’ve been writing for a long time. I have an agent I love and I’m hoping to sell a book. But I’d be writing one way or another. Like I said, I’m hooked on it. And I have writing friends with the same addiction. I think it’s a healthy one.