short (6)

This topic is really big right now. Any writer or reader familiar with books coming out these days has probably noticed a huge trend in shorter fiction. Short stories, novellas, even episodic or chapter-length works are releasing all of the time on Amazon and other book sellers. And it appears that there are two schools of thought in response.

One is comprised of a group of writers and readers who see no issues with shorter fiction. In fact, they encourage it! 

Writers enjoy publishing these works because they can write faster and move on to the next project on their ridiculously long to-do list. Not that writing such a story doesn't take a lot of plotting or research. Believe me, they still do. But, instead of cranking out a big novel every six months to a year, or longer, the turnaround time is a few weeks to, at most, a few months to completely polish one and have it ready for release. For some readers, they enjoy what the industry terms as an hour or "two hour fiction", a quick read on your Kindle while you're at the beach during your vacation, or when you finally get a moment alone at home. And I guess it depends on how fast you read too. LOL. A certain group of readers even enjoy the episodic, sort of Dickensian approach certain books are taking now.

There's nothing wrong with liking shorter fiction. Most writers who start out are practicing their skills by writing short stories. Even writing workshops or classes at universities usually will only expect a story turned in as the project because it's hard enough to write, but still deemed 'manageable' during the time that a semester runs. Only a Master's program would expect a full-length novel pitched as a dissertation. In some ways, shorter works are a tad easier to read or write because they just go faster. 

Why, I bet you've even seen more multi-author anthologies coming out these days. Writers will submit short stories to publishers for such anthologies. It's a good way to launch new authors before they come out with a larger piece, like a novel. A lot of seasoned authors, as well, are participating in charity anthologies. I know a few writers who enjoy a little break between their full-length novels, so they tackle shorter works during that time. I have submitted for several anthologies as well, and for those I've seen anywhere from 1,000 to 6,000 words, but sometimes up to 10,000 word stories accepted. It probably depends on how many authors are involved.

So, let's talk length. I have included a few good diagrams and tips below depicting the range of length on shorter and longer fiction. This is just to give you an idea of the industry standards. Shorter fiction exists as well. I have seen writing contests for one-sentence or one-paragraph fiction. That is called micro fiction. Flash fiction, which is different, is about a page long, and will sometimes be termed 'short-short'.

"That's weird, Marie."

Maybe. But the writer who can accomplish it is quite talented. I don't think I'm brave enough to try it. I'll stick with works that are a bit longer, at least for now. 




As you can see, it's looking like they really can't decide what should be counted as a novel or a novella. And every publisher has different requirements.

There's nothing wrong with writing short fiction. Right? 

Well, it's a matter of opinion. In fact, there's also a group of readers (and writers, for that matter) who never bother with shorter works. Stories or novellas aren't long enough, they say. And in some circles, they feel that only longer fiction is "true fiction".

Everyone has the right to their preferences in books – genres or lengths – but I can't agree with the former assessment. Length doesn't affect quality in any way. As long as the writer develops the characters, gives enough description of the setting and such, moves the plot along and offers a satisfying conclusion, should it really matter if the work in question is a short story or a novel? Apparently, for some people, it does matter. But that's completely fine. We're all entitled to our own opinions.

So, what's my approach? As a writer, I try not to fuss over length while I'm focused on a project. When I'm editing, I can worry all I want about length. But, during the composition of a work-in-progress, the story stands on its own. For me, it's all about the characters and what makes them tick. It's about the story, what drives me to tell it. Where is the tale set? How can I flesh out a character or even a scene a little better so that a reader can "see it" in his or her mind? What's next in the story? How do I keep the action going? And how do I wrap it all up in the end? These are subconscious, and conscious, questions that, I think, most writers try to tackle. However, during the writing process, it's not about length for me. Do I celebrate milestones with word count? "I made it to 25,000 words!" "I reached 50,000 words today!" Yes, of course, I celebrate it. Every writer likes to make progress. 

But we shouldn't place a huge emphasis on word count or manuscript length during composition. Why? Because it can affect everything. I know one writer who can't finish more than one chapter because he's always asking, "But, how long should my book be?"

And that's a problem. It's possible that some writers need the aforementioned word count guidelines to give themselves a goal. However, it can be extremely limiting at the same time. My answer on how long it should be? The manuscript will be however long it is. If it ends up a short story, then so be it. A novella or novelette? Great! A full-length novel? Nothing wrong with that. It is what it is. By the time you're done writing and polishing, you have a finished product and, as a writer, you should be satisfied with the results. You have to love your story or book as much as your readers do. If you don't fall in love with your characters, if the story doesn't "compel" you, then you're in the wrong profession. 

Enjoy writing your manuscript and, I assure you, you'll get more out of it. AND you'll worry less about book length. Be concerned about word count when you're ready to tackle editing and about to research possible publishers to submit the book to, not BEFORE you start a project or while you're writing.

Remember when I said it will ruin everything if you're concerned with length? It's true. Because if you listen to those naysayers who feel your story isn't "true fiction" due to its length, then you have spoiled the joy of writing for yourself. And that assumption? That's all it is, just a belief, not fact. Don't let one opinion discourage you from writing. You can see more about this and other issues in my article, "Don't Limit Yourself", also on the Writing in the Modern Age blog, and you can learn about how to cope with such adverse opinions in my guest post on Penny Estelle's blog. It is titled "Fighting the Naysayers".  

There are plenty of readers who LOVE short fiction. Just out of curiosity, let's count some of the famous authors who became known by their shorter works: Aldous Huxley, Anton Chekhov, Dr. Seuss, Elizabeth Gaskell, Honoré de Balzac, Herman Melville, J.D. Salinger, Jack London, James Joyce, Joseph Conrad, Joyce Carol Oates, Jules Verne, Louisa May Alcott, Roald Dahl, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Washington Irving, Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Oscar Wilde, Franz Kafka, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens and so many more! Obviously, the word count snobs never thought of that one, did they? LOL. And it should be about what's inside the book, anyway. 

In the end, does book length really matter? Not really. The point is that you write your story or novel to the best of your ability, then you sit back and are proud of your work. And what is the second goal of writing? To reach readers who appreciate our stories, who 'see' our characters the way they were meant to be seen, of course. If in the process, you give someone a wonderful experience for an hour, two hours, a day or however long it takes to read the book, then I'd say you've done your job as a writer.

So, get out there, pick up a pen and your favorite journal, or set up your laptop, and start writing! After all, who's stopping you? No one. Just you, and I hope by the time you've read this article, you won't be stopping yourself either. Write that book to wherever it takes you. You won't be disappointed by the experience. I hope I've helped to shed some light on the question 'does size matter in books?'. 

Have a great week, everyone. And, as always, happy reading  :)

(Sources: Wikipedia,,, Better Storytelling,The Famous, Ranker, Classic Shorts, Listverse)

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Constant Noise (flash short story)

The streets of Tokyo teemed with people. A never ending flow of suits and interesting fashion statements. Crowed sidewalks and jammed traffic. Bumper to bumper people and cars. Just another weekday in the land of the rising sun.

Unlike most ex-pats living here, it wasn’t the culture that brought me, Jonathan Merced, from Perth. Old things and historic sites don’t interest me. Never have.

I came here for the hi-tech gadgets and neon lights. After three years I can safely say, Japan is stuck in the past. There is one major intersection, on all the movies, that is ‘bright lights, big city’; the rest is concrete, Pachinko, and the constant jabber of people on phones, to friends and to themselves. It never ends.

Only public transportation is silent, and I can get a chance to think. Riding the trains and buses is awesome. Totally quiet. It’s the reason most people sleep on their way to work or home. I assume all the talking tires them out.

It doesn’t tire me. I hate talking. It gets on my nerves. Angry, violent thoughts magically appear from nowhere, and in my vision, I’m stomping a person’s head on the ground--harder and harder until it cracks open. If I’m especially exhausted, the vision turns darker and sometimes other people come to the aid of the victim. In reality, they’d just get their phones out and stream to YouTube or some other site.

Way of the world, over here.

Jabber. Jabber. Jabber.

It’s one of the few things that grate my nerves. I can handle a few minutes but ten to fifteen is pushing it. Even my MP3 player can’t drown them out. They seem to get louder and louder. Before I know it someone has pissed me off, and in my head they are getting stomped.

Such thoughts are not good but try as I might, I can’t block them. The talking never stops on the streets, in offices, hospitals or riding elevators. The constant noise is maddening.

Today I have a late start at the school and that means I have to dodge talkers in the early afternoon. It’s the worst time to be on the streets. The sun is out and the country is wide awake.

My ear buds are in and Megadeth is blaring, and for a short time all is right with the world. Until a woman next to me answers her phone. Her voice is high and shrill. Her laughter is the call of a hyena. She cackles and overreacts with every second breath. My Japanese is limited but I understand she is meeting this phone friend in five minutes. Five bloody minutes. She couldn’t wait. 

In my head, I picture grabbing her long wavy hair and yanking it backwards. Forcing her head to smack into the concrete and driving my boot down into her face--again and again and again. I imagine her screams dying out. Onlookers shocked but phones are uploading to YouTube. Live action attack. Foreigner goes nuts.

I imagine someone is calling the police on an old flip style phone. He can’t upload video on that. The woman is unmoving on the ground. Her face is caved in. Calmly, I walk away, turned a corner and my mood changes. There’s a happy feeling warming my insides.

However, dark thoughts continue to ride with me, hanging around like a bad smell. They don’t seem to want to vanish as they usually do.

There’s a young man leaning against a convenience store wall and shouting on his phone. He’s pissed at his mother. She found his magazines and DVDs, and he is disgusted she snooped through his things.

His jabbering is far too loud and he has no problem exposing himself as an asshole to the entire world. So many people openly stare at him.

I imagine in my bag is a kitchen knife. Full of confidence, I stride up to him. My right hand is inside my bag and it is gripping the knife handle. With a finger on my lips I try to shush him. He should keep this call private.

He gives me a look of contempt and raises his volume.


I’ll shush him.

In my imagination, I move with lightning speed, my right hand comes out of my bag and the kitchen knife gets noticed too late. The man has no time to react. I drive the knife upward, under his chin and into the roof of his mouth. The blade sticks in the mouth plate and I use my palm to punch it higher. His right eye deflates; goo is sliding over the eyelid. I know that most of it is coating the knife’s sharpened steel.

He drops his phone as he collapses to the ground. I can hear the mother on the other end still yelling at him. Her voice is as bad as his.

I imagine taking his wallet and learning his address. It’s full of money, so I pocket the wallet for later.

His mother’s voice follows me as I turn and cross the street. Onlookers are busy with phones while others have lost interest and continued on with their day.

I’m across the road in seconds and that damn woman’s voice continues to grate my nerves. I can still hear the bitch. Her voice matches the shrill of police sirens filling the air.

Up ahead, I spot a black taxi. Its rear door is open, meaning it is looking for passengers.

Learning through the open back door, I ask if it’s alright to get a lift. Sometimes they refuse foreign passengers. This cabbie says no problem and I show him the driver’s license. He nods and pulls out into the traffic.

The ride is silent. In this country, public transport is the best.

END pop in  for a visit. I don't bite hard ;-) 

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Last Lunch by Omoruyi Uwuigiaren

I stopped at a restaurant to have lunch. It was not the best of my world. Most of the chairs were rickety and there were cracks here and there on the walls. I almost went round the restaurant as if I was on an inspection of some dilapidated structures. When I finally found a seat that was befitting, I was almost exhausted. Life is cruel if you have too many sad choices to make.
The owner of the restaurant looked pale. There were wrinkles on her face. Many years of activities was taking its toll. At a glance, she was like a woman in the pool of old age!
I took my seat in the extreme and ordered for a meal that would last forever in my stomach. Considering the times, it was honourable to do what is right and not what you like. Eating because you need to eat is good. For a man of little means, food is a luxury. All that matters to him is to find a meal that could keep him out of the pool of hunger long enough. Do I care if all eyes were on me? It was hard times. The recession was biting hard. To me, eating a meal meant for three or more people alone was no crime. It was only a bargain. Who knows, it could be my last in this miserable world. Let us wine and dine. Tomorrow we shall live. If there was a better time to be mindful of my rations, especially as it concerns the quantity of food that I consume every time that I stumble on the chance to have a meal, it was now.
The meal, when it was served was like a mountain. I could barely see the people at the other side of the table. One of the men gazed at me as if I was going to kill myself with the “fufu and egusi” soup that occupied nearly half my table. When our eyes met, I flashed an exaggerated smile at him. But he did not return a smile. Instead, he wore a frown. He swallowed hard and began to chew his thin lips that were hidden under a heavy line of moustache!
I lowered my head and faced the meal. Let him kill himself because I want to have my lunch…
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A Few Words on Pat O’Regan

By Pat O'Regan

I’ve run the gamut in writing – novels, short stories, plays, essays, profiles – but, as a way of attracting attention, I’ll focus on just two works. One of the novels concerns the life and art of a professional outdoor photographer. Photography, of course, is a very common expression of the artistic impulse we all share. Who hasn’t looked through a viewfinder and been thrilled at the sight? Or gazed upon a photo and thought, “Maybe I was lucky, but I’ve taken a great shot!” In the context of the love and struggle of Peter Donnelly, professional photographer, Shadows of the Past shows the artist in all of us. This is me, the reader would think, for I’ve been overcome by beauty, too. Add to this a love story and a struggle with the family of origin and you have the world of Peter Donnelly, and the reader. This novel has been professionally edited to exacting (and expensive) standards.

The other work I might single out is a play on the Vietnam War. I’ve not yet seen this conflict, so embedded in the American Soul, covered on stage. What is the experience of young guys in combat? What does war do to them? Truly, war enriches people’s lives – when it doesn’t drive them mad or kill them. Having been in combat in Vietnam, I know something about the experience. I’ve seen buddies killed or wounded, many driven to the brink of endurance, mentally and physically. Basically, an anti-war play, every line of FDC has dramatic content, rising to the keenest pitch of excitement and despair in its portrayal of the grinding shocks and burdens of war as it assaults the hearts of young men. From curtain to curtain, an audience would be captivated. I staged a reading of FDC (Fire Direction Control: the hut in which most of the action of the play takes place) recently. There was no lack of energy in my living room that night. I would do whatever I could to help with the production of this work. Somebody would make a lot of money with this play.

All art is born of conflict and every artist is beset with it. Love in the context of pain or hate. We can know a lot about others by the great love in their lives. Mine is literature. I was raised by a father who loved alcohol. It brought him relief from the shame of having been abused. My mother, God bless her, loved her motor home (which my father hated, by the way, as did I. It was the only thing we had in common.). When I was young, I tried to end my life – a thing of no value to me, whatsoever – in the mundane way of getting lost in the woods in the dead of winter. But I couldn’t manage it. I got lucky – three times – stumbling out of the woods just as the sun was setting and the woods was becoming black as pitch. I stumbled, instead, into a teaching position at a small parochial college, where I did the work of two or three medical students, and where, for all my efforts, the nuns colluded to steal part of my meagre salary (by putting me on the salary scale lower than I should have been). Oh, the memories to write about! And I did. My novel about that college is called Mater Dei, which means Mother of God, the name of the college.

After the college (now, alas and predictably, defunct), burned out, I turned to writing for business. Unbeknownst to me at the time – or who could stand it? – often I was the only one in sight getting any actual writing done. This did not, of course, exempt me from being utterly taken for granted and treated disparagingly. Of course, I did not realize this at the time – or who could stand it? – and I am not saying that this is unique. You, too, are taken for granted. Besides, who’s complaining? I made a living, and I’m still here. Furthermore, is not all this turmoil the stuff of a writing life? The novel based on my life is called The Life of Jeremy Grady.

At this time, I began to get work published. I’ve had some eight or ten short stories published in various magazines. I also write for the local chapter of the Sierra Club and a regional running magazine (I’m a runner), called RunMinnesota. (Along the way, I’ve become well-read, which is the great joy of my life.) 

Some of this time, I was married. Can you believe it? We didn’t have any kids, but isn’t life a trade-off, this for that? I look at my library, consider the stuff I have written and recall the places I have been, and say to myself, “It’s okay, after all.”

The photography novel (Shadows of the Past) is being marketed at my own web site ( My four books of short stories have been listed on the POD publisher (enter Pat O’Regan in the Search field). I would send anyone interested a copy of the Vietnam War play (at my expense, of course).

I might mention another marketing angle. Of the many published articles and profiles, mostly on environmental issues and running, the profiles of some of the best runners around (including six Olympic athletes, four men and two women, and one Olympic coach) would make a very engaging book for anyone with an interest in athletic endeavor, especially running. This work gets at the souls of people who are among the best in the world at something. I can tell you, they are not like the rest of us. Some 20-25 profiles of these people would sell to the legion of runners out there. 

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New Member

I have joined today: a few hours ago. I have written eight eBooks and would like to invite member friends to download them free. They are available at Smashwords, Amazon, B&N, Obooko, and a few others. The titles are:

1. The Honey Gatherer - a story set in the deep jungles bordering India and Nepal

2. Aroma Of Orange Pekoe - Snippets and musings spanning the life of Tea & Coffee planters in India & PNG.

3. Laugh Like A Dog - The daughter of a rich Hindu industrialist elopes and marries a poor Anglo Indian boy.

4. To Sweeten Boredom - thirteen gripping short stories to keep you riveted.

5. Episodes Of Ecstasy - Thirteen more unput-downable stories.

6. A Compilation Of Short Stories

7. Travails Of Innocence - A story from rural India of love, God-women, teen pregnancy, honor killing, etc.

8. She Shed A Tear - Love between a Hindu boy and a Muslim woman and its crashing consequences. 

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Tonight during story time take a trip to the heart of Africa.

Make new friends including a clutter of cats otherwise known as The City Heroes. Follow a pair of jungle ants as they rescue their friend from a raging storm. Tag along with a country boy as he hunts wild birds to prepare a feast for his father’s arrival. Understand the true meaning of mercy and charity when a stranger is caught stealing eggs from a farmer. Help a baby named Thomas find his way home after he strays from his father’s boat. Follow Blaize and his newfound canine friend Thatcher as they thwart a group of kidnappers in Blaize and the Master of Enchantment.

Beautifully illustrated pictures help tell all six stories including The City Heroes, The Jungle Ants, The Country Boy, Stranger on the Farm, Baby Thomas and Blaize and the Master of Enchantment. Encounter adventures beyond your wildest dreams, learn about the beautiful country of Nigeria, and see how easy and how fun it is to learn about a new culture in the heart of Africa.

The City Heroes and other stories from the Heart of Africa by Nigerian writer Omoruyi Uwuigiaren is a perfect introduction for young readers to learn about the African experience. Suitable for middle grade readers, the stories within the collection contain messages and themes about forgiveness, charity, redemption and loyalty all from a decidedly African perspective.10916207855?profile=originalBuy Link

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