Are Stories Getting Shorter?


In this day of the Tweet and the Facebook status update, of texting and email, are we programming ourselves for “short”?

On one hand there seems to be some evidence that this might be the case. Short Youtube videos are as popular as TV shows. In the written media, I’ve seen more novellas in the last five years than perhaps the previous ten combined.

These intermediate stories — either a very long short story, or a very short novel — once were the stuff of collections. Now they have begun to appear as digital offerings, a way, perhaps, for an author to test the water of self-publishing without risking a more time-consuming project.

Is this a trend or an anomaly?

Perhaps it’s a replacement.

None have been seen since 1959

Short stories seem to be going the way of the Pallid beach mouse. Once populating Florida, the little creature hasn’t been seen in more than half a century.

Certainly short story collections have a hard time finding a publishing home. And magazines that carry short stories are a dying breed.

Yes, there is hope for short stories on the Internet. Online webzines continue to crop up from time to time, but fewer of these are paying markets, which means writers may as well publish their short stories on their own site, as I have from time to time, where their regular readers are more apt to find them.

Could it be, however, that short stories, rather than disappearing, are expanding? That the novella trend is not a replacement of the novel at all but a void filler for the absent short stories?

Publishing, the new Wild West

I suppose there’s no way to know. As one industry professional recently describe publishing, it’s currently the wild, Wild West.

Self-reliance was the most important ingredient for survivors in the days of land-grabs and cattle rustlers.

Or was it?

When there was no lawman in town, no doctor, and often no preacher or teacher, people learned to rely on themselves or to bond together and rely on their community. Guess which ones thrived the most.

So in the structural vacuum of publishing, with its fenceless expanses and ever increasing numbers of charlatans offering a helping hand to the wannabe writer hoping for a bargain price on choice publishing real estate, who’s to say if short will win out or die out?

Some believe the reader will finally get the say. So, what do you like to read — short stories, novellas, or novels? (Is it time for another poll, before the previous one is not even half way to completion? 🙄 )

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Published in: on April 28, 2011 at 6:30 pm  Comments (6)  
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