When I first started writing, all I wrote were short stories. I loved working on them. I could start one and usually finish it in a week or two. It was almost like instant gratification. And I placed enough of them in anthologies and magazines that they boosted my confidence. Novels are a bigger commitment. A book can take months, sometimes most of a year, to write, and then they take as much time and work to submit and try to place. But they garner more attention.
It’s really difficult to make a career out of selling short stories. I thought, though, that at least I could use them to get my foot in the publishing door. Not so much. When I finally wrote a novel and sent it out, no one cared about anything except if they needed the kind of book I wrote and if they liked mine. I suffered a lot of misses before I got a yes. Then, once I started selling books, they took up all of my time.
Now that I’m self-publishing, I have more freedom again. And I can say yes to things that interest me.
A writer I know asked me if I’d be interested in writing a short story for a podcast she and her husband do together. They’re collecting twelve authors, and later this year, they’ll read or perform a story once a week, and when they’ve shared them all, then they’ll collect them into an anthology to publish the year after that. I was flattered she’d asked me, so I immediately said yes. And then I worried.
I haven’t written a short story for so long, I couldn’t think of anything that would work, and when I finally did, I couldn’t find a rhythm I liked. I was out of practice. Usually, the more stressed I get, the worse I write, so I just pushed the entire project out of my mind. Until, that is, I had to get my blood drawn last Friday. I’m diabetic, and my doctor keeps an eye on me twice a year. Our hospital’s lab is usually efficiency itself, but not last week. When I sat down in the waiting room, a nice woman looked at me and said, “Get comfortable. I’ve been here an hour and a half.”
Uggh! I hadn’t brought my Kindle with me, and I knew I’d get the fidgets if I just sat there doing nothing, so I pulled the three by five cards out that I always keep in my purse. And I asked myself, Which of my characters would make a good short story? I chose Nick and Laurel because their novel was more of a straight mystery than Jazzi and Ansel or Karnie and Matt. Then I had to decide how they’d get involved in solving a murder. And before I knew it, they were calling 911 but the ambulance didn’t get there in time, and a woman was dead. I had one idea after another and the whole story played out for me before a nurse came to get me. Being stuck in a waiting room with nothing to do was the best inspiration I could have had. This time.
It made me realize how much I miss writing short stories. And how easy it is to lose the feel for something that was once comfortable for me. Even if I only publish them on my blog, I’d like to write a few stories a year just to remember how to do it. And because they’re fun.