In 2015 I published my first ebook, a collection of short stories titled The Struggles. The market for short stories is pretty slender these days, and at least two of the stories in the collection, “The Visit” and “Purple Heart,” have gone the rounds for decades. I figured that if those stories are to see the light of day, Amazon Kindle is the way to go.
Writing short stories can be fun, even though I’ve always seen myself as a novelist. I think there’s a kind of knack to writing short stories that’s a little different from the one needed to write novels. That knack can be learned, like most things, but for me it’s kind of hit-or-miss. If the story doesn’t have it, I toss it back in the hard drive while the germ germinates a little more in my mind. I doubt some of those seeds will ever come to fruition.
Besides, when I started writing, in 1968 at the ripe old age of 14, I saw myself as a novelist. Writing short stories came along a few years later.
When I published The Struggles it was as much an experiment as anything else. The experimental part was to work with Amazon Kindle and gain some understanding of their publication process. Everything We Had was in process, and before I undertook trying to publish My First Novel, I wanted a better idea of what I needed to do.
So, an experiment…but maybe I’m wrong to write “as anything else.”
Writing a short story really is different from writing a novel. For me that difference touches that ineffable and indefinable term “art.” It’s not that a novel isn’t “art,” but it’s art in a different way. There’s something poignant about a short story, like looking down a street in the city in the rain, wondering what’s in the dark doorways hidden in shadows. A novel takes a walk down that street and looks in each doorway until you get to the end of the street. A short story might take you into one, and it’s what happens when you open it. But the mystery of those other doors, those other paths not taken, that mystery still remains.
Or, a short story is like a brief, intense love affair, while a novel is more like a marriage, or at least a “long-term relationship.” Or something like that.
Anyway this post was inspired by the fact that, yesterday, as I was looking over my sales reports on Amazon, I noticed the sale of an ebook. Oh, I thought, wonder which one that was. Boxcar Red Leader? A Snowball’s Chance? Everything We Had? When it wasn’t any of those, I suddenly remembered The Struggles — and there it was.
Someone bought a copy of The Struggles. I don’t know who you are, friend, but thank you, and I hope you enjoy it. Because those stories in many ways were harder to write and took more from me than the novels.