It depends on the short story! Some will just flow out, others I need to have several drafts to get right but I aim to get at least one story out a month to meet the deadlines for Writers’ News/Writing Magazine competitions. I usually try to get another story out too if I can either to Shortbread or one of the many festival and other writing competitions. If I wasn’t writing other things, I could get more work out but given I can only write part time I’m relatively happy with this. I would, of course, like to do more but without losing quality.
Why write fairytales?
Because I’ve always loved them. Because they can be long or short. There’s a lot of scope for humour (or tragedy) in them. They give a strong message via an entertaining story. They make you think. There isn’t necessarily a happy ending either. I also think fairytales stick in the memory for longer than most story forms because of the reasons I’ve given here. You can pitch fairytales for all ages too (naturally adjusting the writing style and language used accordingly).
What would you say was the best short story ever written?
For me this is The Accident Syndicate by P.G. Wodehouse because it is wonderfully funny and the prose is sublime. It is so well crafted. Also the “hero”, Ukridge, is my least favourite Wodehouse character (reminds me too much of someone I know!) yet here in this story the character has me gripped. It takes a special kind of author to get someone following the actions of a character that same someone dislikes. I’d also say I like Wodehouse’s golf stories and I can’t stand golf either (I agree with Mark Twain’s view here that “golf is a good walk wasted”).
What is the best form of fiction - short story or novel?
Books could literally be written on this and it wouldn’t surprise me if they had been. I ask why choose! Both are wonderful forms. Both have classic examples. Both are entertaining, make you think, invent other worlds and stretch your mind. Both should have memorable characters and incidents. The big advantage of the novel of course is you can have a lot more of those than you can in a short story. Yet the short story’s big advantage is that having to focus on fewer characters and incidents makes it a more intense tale. It all depends on whether you fancy a long or short literary “drink”! For short stories, I generally prefer the word count to be under 5,000 (and ideally for me to be between 1000 and 2500, I like my short fiction to be literally short and sharp!). I also like a well crafted piece of flash fiction. I admit though the novel in many ways can be “easier” to do - you have the space in which to expand your ideas and cut backs can always be done later.