Short Stories: How Short and How Tight Should They Be?

When someone says shorts what does it mean to you? I always used to prefer those continental jobs that the tennis players favour. But are they short trousers, or long shorts? These days, now that I am back to writing ‘shorts’ mean something totally different.

I’ve always written novel length stories, and I’m thinking now that my penchant for long trousers may have a subjective effect on all of this. I hate my legs in shorts! Does it explain why I find writing short stories so difficult? They are time capsules, a brief but intense insight into someones world. They still have to carry all the same criteria as a novel, but all the principles have to be honed to within an inch of their life, or hems, if you want to stay with the theme. The length can vary from ankle grazing continental style (almost a novella, but not quite?) to an old fashioned pair of budgie smugglers… flash fiction?

I think mine are the discreet kind, just on the knee or maybe slightly above. Is all this the first signs of madness? Oh, very probably, and yet I found someone from the same sewing box. John Hudspith is a man with pins in his mouth and a pair of pinking shears in his hand. I send the big roll of material to him and it comes back all cut out into smaller, more pleasing shapes. He can turn any billowing sheet of raw silk into a pleasing pair of shorts. A silk purse from a pig’s ear. This is my editor’s comfort zone without a doubt, he devours the over-worded paragraph with the tenacity of a royal dress maker. When I’m writing I see him in my minds eye with a machete, bearing down on the over-grown narrative until I give in and hit delete.

Let’s be serious for a moment now. I have a small but tortured history of working with editors, agents and publishers and one develops a ‘nose’ for the real thing, like the fragrance of fresh washed cotton… Oops sorry about that, lapsed into analogy again. When I was introduced to John Hudspith I don’t mind admitting I was on the verge of despair. I’d had dealings with a big editorial company from London some thirty years ago, so I know how editing and proofreading should work but of course with self publishing we don’t have the cash advances and the backing, and we have to make all of these decisions for ourselves. I wanted to find someone with those same skills who didn’t charge the London prices. I struggled. I was let down, and disappointed. The internet is a very messy sewing box and not everyone puts the needles and pins in a safe place.

Until I found John Hudspith. I want to see his shorts. I’m betting they are very very small.

shorts

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