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Saturday, August 30, 2014


By: Celia Yeary

Several years ago, I bought a 1970 Edition Writer's Digest book titled "Handbook of Short Story Writing." This small book gives practical advice on the how-to's of:
Ideas, Characters, Dialogue, Plotting, Viewpoint, The Scene, Description, Flashback, Transition, Conflict, Revision, and Marketing.

With the complete guide, one would think a budding short story writer would soon learn the knack of writing decent stories, and perhaps one day turn into Eudora Welty. You remember her, don't you? I recently found another treasure at my local Half-Price Book Store titled "A Curtain of Green and Other Stories," by Eudora Welty. The first printing was in 1941 and the book has been reprinted many times. Her works are taught in college English courses.

"Curtain of Green" contains seventeen short stories, ranging in length from twelve pages to twenty-five pages. In case you're wondering the exact length of a true short story, her stories probably can be considered the watermark.

The titles of her stories in "Curtain" are creations in themselves: "Lily Daw and the Three Ladies," "Old Mr. Marblehall," "Petrified Man," and "Death of a Traveling Salesman,"—to name a few.

You didn't know Eudora Welty wrote "Death of a Traveling Salesman?" She did—in 1930. And how many times has that twenty-five-page story been read, and re-read, and studied, and turned into a stage play? She was born in 1909 and died in 2001, went to college but returned home to live out her days in the home she was born in. She never married, but was said to be a "dreamy" sort of girl. I believe this "dreamy" characteristic came about because she was creating stories in her head.
We've all done that, haven't we? Looked dreamy? Or maybe in a trance?

I am no Eudora Welty, nor do I wish to be. But I value the short story more because of her talent, greatness, and influence.

These days, I'm turning more to writing shorter fiction. Call them what you will—short stories, short fiction, mini-novels, or novellas—each one contains the same elements as any piece of fiction.

In this busy world we live in, readers must often cram in a few pages here, a few pages there. The short story--or novella, etc.--becomes a godsend for a quick satisfying story to ponder.

Here is one example you may download, if you wish.

                                                    The Cattlemen's Ball-FREE-16 pages

The story goes back to the original Cameron male, Ryan Cameron, who becomes the patriarch of the Cameron Family of Texas. 

A short while ago, I wrote four "Dime Novels." These are around 25,000 words each, and each has a Jimmy Thomas cover. Of all my books, these four Dime novels at 99cents have been a very successful adventure.

In the Prairie Rose Publications anthology titled Cowboy Cravings, my short story titled
"Starr Bright" is one of the offerings.
Next up for me? A mail-order bride trilogy titled Trinity Hill Brides. As of this moment, the trilogy is almost complete.
I enjoy writing shorter fiction, now, but the full-length novel is still my favorite.

Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas
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  1. How lovely that you have such versatility, Celia. I admire folks who write short. It is very difficult for me as I keep wanting to add this or that. Which is odd come to think of it, because I initially had trouble writing books that were 65K in length. oh well. It is what it is.

    I've very much enjoyed your Dime novels, especially Addie and the Gunslinger, and I'm looking forward to your new mail order bride trilogy.

    1. Hi, Maggie--I flattered that you think I have such versatility, you the Queen of such. I can't begin to write as many different categories as you. My first books were looooong, but I have more verve and energy back then. Now? I get to 25,000 words and think, surely I've written a full-length.
      The bride trilogy is coming along--I even have some photos selected for the covers, since I want them to resemble. It's not easy finding just the right ones, so I'm starting early.
      Thanks for taking time out of your busy day.

  2. Not only do I love to read short fiction, but I enjoy writing it as well. It's how I started out. I took a course in short story writing with Writer's Digest and it was tough, but wonderful. The word count was limited to 5000 words. Every word REALLY counted, but that was part of the fun. I've taken several creative writing classes since then, but the WD class was the best one I ever took. Like the book you read, Celia, it gave details about writing, plot, characterization, and so on that was just invaluable.
    I still enjoy writing novels, but they do require a time commitment to write and to read. I don't actually know the temperament of readers in regards to the changing market for short fiction, but personally, I love to read short fiction. The stories are crisp and focused.
    Long fiction can sometimes sag in the middle, or the author gets off focus. As much as I truly enjoyed reading Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series of the adventures of Clare and Jamie, she would go into these long dissertations on botany and medical practice that made my eyes cross. Every book was huge. I still love her work, but I ending up skimming over all the medical-herbal passages. I should be flogged. LOL
    I have read your novels and loved them. You keep the action moving forward and the premise clearly defined. Your characters are vibrant and delightfully flawed. No saggy middles--not ever.
    Thank you for your free gift. Of course, I'm going to swoop over there and get The Cattleman's Ball. I actually thought I had this book on my old Sony reader. The Sony reader died and, if the book is there, it died with the reader, so I'm glad I'm getting the chance to get it as a gift.
    You write whatever you want, long or short, Celia, and I know it will be excellent. All the best to your corner of Mother Earth--down Texas way.

    1. I think the length of DG's books is the main thing that kept me from reading them. And now I have an even shorter attention span.
      For The Wild Rose Press, I wrote three 1500 word shorts for their Free Read section. "Merry Christmas, Victoria" is now on Rebecca's website under "Free books." It was tough to write only 1500 words and make a unique story, but I did it. The editor kept after me, giving me hints. The first began as 3000 w, and I was sure I couldn't cut that in half and still have the story...but I did.
      Listen, your best words are "no sagging middle." Trust me, this is important in a book...but my body--cannot help my sagging middle!

  3. Celia, I agree the short stories do have an important spot in our busy lives. My short story A Moment in Time is a short that is the length it would take you to read through your lunch hour. This summer I wrote two shorts. Belle's Crossing and Snowflakes and Teardrops. Hopefully they get published. My favorite work so far is a novel I wrote last year. I'm still working on it. I haven't decided if I should submit it as a novel or rewrite it and send it as three different novellas.

    1. I hope your shorts get published, too. My most successful published stories are the four "Dime Novels", each about 25,000. All four have been on an Amazon Top 100 lists off and on, but one stayed on three Top 100 for two years! They're almost three years old and still are making money. I have ten novel length, and 2-3 have sold well...the others not so well. (I blame this mainly on the fact they are not pure romance--more women's fiction--but I love those anyway. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Celia, I had forgotten Eudora Welty wrote "Death of a Traveling Salesman." I'll never forget the story, though, because every time I turned around somebody assigned it. :-D

    I was never a huge fan of short stories. (I blame that on reading Kafka's "Metamorphosis" in junior high. Who decided it was a good idea to assign that particular story to kids in the South, where we don't have to use our imaginations to see roaches the size of Volkswagens?) I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd write shorts. How would I fit character development, a worthwhile plot, and a love story into no more than 10,000 words?

    Now that I've written a few, I've discovered I really enjoy the form. More than that, I'd advise every novelist to try writing at least one short story for practice, if nothing else. There's nothing like keeping a story to somewhere between one-fifth and one-tenth the length of a novel to teach writers how to cut the chaff and pick up the pace.

    "The Cattleman's Ball" is one of my favorites among your stories, and "Starr Bright" is right up there, too. You are a master at giving vibrant life to everyday people doing everyday things in captivating ways. :-)


    1. Kathleen,

      I understand exactly what you're saying about not being a fan of short stories, and I also agree about how "Metamorphosis" is a turn off for reading short stories. For me, it was "The Scarlet Ibis" that put the black mark on short stories.

      Having said that, I've learned to write shorter works and each time I finish one, I feel I've done a little better with tightening the plot and deepening characters.

      My preference to read and to write are longer stories.

      But, I'm not complaining. I'm tickled pink to be writing stories of any length and seeing them published. It's all good. ;-)

    2. Kathleen--funny I haven't cared for short stories much, either. It's been an evolving interest. I though a story wasn't worth reading unless it was 80,000 words at least. But now, I see the value in them, in more ways than one. However, the longer novels still have a strong pull. I'm glad you like The Cattlemen's Ball. It was fun to write and did it for Rebecca Vickery to put on her website.

  5. I prefer the short story form, it is the one I gravitate to first. I also agree that there is a resurgance in their popularity with todays lifestyles.

    Thank you for the gift of your story. Here is to many more stories, both short and long. Doris

    1. I've been downloading more shorter fiction lately, for the same reason I'm writing it--my attention span has become shorter. That might have something to do with all these white hairs in my head! And you're welcome for the story. Thanks for your comment.

  6. I enjoy novellas. They seem just the right length for me. They tell the story and get done, without dragging it out! I'm so impatient these days that I have to get to the end of the book and have everything figured out. The trouble is that then I have to find another one to read which holds my interest. Lately, I've been lucky in that respect, but not always.

    1. Morgan--and you do it well, too. The main reason I write novel lengths is to get the prints--for my readers here in town. If I didn't have this sell base, I'd probably stick to short fiction. These friends don't use Kindles, etc. They want a paper book.

  7. Hello Celia,
    Thank you for the free story. I'm not much of a short story writer, I usually write long... (and unpublished so far except in fanfiction groups... LOL) but I'll eventually try my hand at it. I tried my hand at 55-words stories, in a challenge, years ago. It was fun but boy, not easy at all.

    I've read Starr Bright, in Cowboy Cravings, one of the anthologies Kathleen sent me a little while ago, and loved it.

    1. Liette--I only began writing shorter stories not long ago--mainly for anthologies. Then I learned they made good singles to sell on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You're welcome for the story, and thank you! ..for enjoying Starr Bright.

  8. Celia,

    "These days, I'm turning more to writing shorter fiction."

    I believe your statement speaks to the convenience of digital reading devices and that readers are interested in having a plethora of quicker reads at their fingertips to fill-in the few 'downtime' moments in their busy lives.

    Mark Twain sums up my challenge in writing shorter works: “I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” The truth in that is when crafting a shorter work, every single word counts. There's no room for 'waxing poetic".

    Writing short works challenges me, and I like that. ;-) But, my preference is writing the epic saga. ;-)

    1. Kaye--you're exactly right. It's not easy to write a good short story--you mentioned Mark Twain, and that's exactly what he meant. All stories need "3 acts," which reminds do excerpts. That will be my next post in a month or so--"How To Write the Perfect Excerpt."

  9. Oh, here's something I forgot (even after that very long comment.) Writing a short story connected to a series, helps readers become acquainted with your longer work. Giving a short story away that's connected to a series is like eating one potato chip--ya just gotta have some more.

  10. Sarah--you know, I've never done that before The Cattlemen's Ball. I wrote that to explain who the original Camerons were--the patriarch and the matriarch. They are mentioned in the first "Texas" novel TEXAS BLUE. I'll remember your saying this, and will see about writing more.Thanks!

  11. My first story I ever sold was a short story--to Adams Media--had to be "true" and had to have something to do with an object you had forgotten about and rediscovered--"Memories From the Attic" in the Rocking Chair Reader series. I loved writing that story--but it was quite a challenge to fit it all into 1200 words! I made it! and it was accepted. I wrote several more of that type of stories for Adams Media anthologies and Chicken Soup anthologies, meanwhile, working on my novels. But it never occurred to me until after I got my first novel published to try my hand at a fictional short story--A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES was it. I loved that story and still do.

    Since I always loved English in school, short stories had been with me forever, but I never thought of myself as a short story writer. I think for one thing, the importance of the effects of a good short story were never impressed on me, growing up. It was just something we had to do for a grade--read the story and answer the questions.

    The one I truly hated was Hills Like White Elephants by Hemingway. I love that story NOW, but at the time we read it (think we were seniors, or maybe a freshman in college) no one understood what it was really about--it didn't make sense since we didn't know the sub dialogue, and the teacher didn't want to explain (or didn't know what it was about herself).

    Celia, I always love your stories, long or short. You do a great job with your characters, no matter what!


  12. Cheryl--you don't know how much I appreciate your kind words. I remember your Adams Media stories--those were among the first things I recall about you besides you novel Fire Eyes. I was impressed by the cover and the story. At the time, I wondered, who is Cheryl Pierson? Well, I did find out. And I thank you so much for all these years of friendship. Thanks!

    1. You're welcome, Celia! I feel truly blessed to have you for such a good friend. Love your stories so much!

  13. My favorite length is about 50K to 65K. I am working on getting short stories down and Jacquie Rogers recently helped me tremendously. I always wanted too much in the story, but she showed me how to pare it down.
    On another note, I had either never known or had forgotten that Welty wrote "Death of a Salesman." It was also made into a movie, but I don't know how faithful the movie was to the story. I do remember seeing the movie many years ago.

  14. Caroline--that length is my very favorite, too-to write and to read. My longest book is about 85,000 words, and one reviewer said "nothing happened." I still laugh about that review--It was Texas True and everything in the world happened to True in that story! She also complained about not enough sex--so maybe that's what she was looking for. Haha.