Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Long Stories

Nag’s Head, N.C.  – I’m at the beach, in the happy position of having written four detective short stories, featuring P.I. Frank Swiver, and having published them all.  Ellery Queen bought #s 1, 2, & 4, and I self-published #3 on Amazon as a 99 cent Kindle short story (The Girls from Nanking).

It looks like it’s time to write another short story.  As it happens, I’ve been reading (or re-reading) Raymond Chandler’s Trouble Is My Business.  It’s a book of four of Chandler’s best, most developed short stories.  I love the way he creates a setting in these stories, and builds from scene to scene.  The action can be fast, but the pace is leisurely.    
I counted the words on three random pages, added, divided, and multiplied.  “Trouble Is my Business” (the story) is about 20,000 words.  “Finger Man” is around 19,700.  I had trouble selling my Ellery Queen stories—the first one came in at 11,500 words originally, and I cut it back 2,000 at ed. Janet Hutchings’ request.  (She was right.) 

I think my second story, “Ice,” coming in the Sept.-Oct. issue is under 8,000, but the other two are both more than 9,000 words, and I felt hard pressed to wrap up the “Girls from Nanking” at its current length.    I’m comfortable with the long-ish short story.  It just seems natural.  I like to compose a story of six or seven good scenes, and that’s going to take up some words. 
I’d love to hear what you think.  Does a reader enjoy a long short story?  Or is that old-fashioned?  The modern literary short story ranges from 6,000 to 7,500 words, often even shorter.  What do you like?  I’ve tried to set up the blog to enable your comments.  Let me know, or e-mail harley.c.mazuk@gmail.com

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