Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Shorts, Serials and Novellas...

I was chatting (via email) with a friend the other day about my new short story and she asked "What does one do with a short story? And what are these 'serials' I keep hearing about?"

Now, realizing that I am older than dirt and not everyone was around when paper was scarce and books weren't always published in full, 330 page, beautifully bound and typeset fullness, I thought it would be a good topic for today's post.

So, Short Stories first: Short Stories are just that - short. They can be as few as 50 or 100 words (really!) and as long as...well, pretty long. Generally around 20-30,000 words. The main attribute is the ability to adequately define a singlular mood, act or observation completely, often with a surprising twist in charactor or action. For a good description, go here: Hemmingway, London, Poe and others began their careers writing short stories for publication well before they were considered by the big publishing houses.

If you've got a Short Story squirelled away and don't know what to do with it, here's a list of literary magazines that are always looking for fresh work. Oh, did I mention that a huge number of agents read these pubs in search of new talent? Yeah, bonus points!

Serials are a little foggier, and have only recently become popular again. When our parents or grandparents were younger (yes, even I'm not THAT old), they were one of the more common sources of fiction, especially westerns and adventure story novels. Those old radio shows like "The Shadow" and "Lone Ranger?" Yup - serial (or serialized) stories. They would often be published one chapter at a time in magazines or newspapers, the authors later becoming popular enough for a publisher to combine all the chapters into a single, bound edition. Sarah Fine does a great job of semi-serializing in her regular additions to Malachi's Journal on her Guards of the Shadowlands page.

The most recognizable names echo the Victorian period when they first became popular: Dickens, Eliot, Hardy and Stevenson. Here's a great post about why authors should consider serializing their novels:

Novellas are something harder to describe - longer than a short story, but shorter than a Novel. They may be bits and pieces of a novel that were edited out during the revision process, but still have a compelling subject and plot. They may be complete, stand alone pieces that refused further jerry-mandering and remain too lean to sit alone on the shelf. A great post on why Novella's are making a comeback can be found here:

I, for one, believe the growth of e-books and the agonizing wait for sequals to favorite first and second books in series has had a direct affect on the demand (thus the supply - sorry, I have a minor in economics) for Novellas. In fact, I hold Rae Carson and Sarah Fine personally responsible for my own insatiable need to read Something, Anything related to their books while I chew my fingernails to bits and overindulge in all my indulges until their next books come out.

Who knows, maybe someday, somewhere, someone will eagerly await my shorts and serials as I struggle valiantly to complete the next book in my series!

Happy Wednesday, or as we say around here: Happy Pre-Friday-Eve!

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