I’m rubbish at writing short stories. Even my long stories are too long – to start with at least. I am getting close to finishing the final draft of Carrion and it should be around 125000 words then, but an earlier draft reached 180000 words! About 18 months ago, during a period when I’d put that draft aside for a few weeks, I took the opportunity to look at an old short story I’d written with a view to revamping it. I was happy with the story, but it needed a serious edit: more showing not telling, a lot more dialogue, and a better flow. It was already a long short story – around 11000 words – and I had a feeling it would be a bit longer by the time I’d finished with it. And it was. It reached 75000 words.
Why am I telling you this? Because I’m always impressed by people who can write short stories. You know, stories that are no more than a few thousand words long. The ability to get across a setting, characters, atmosphere all in relatively few words is a skill I singularly fail at. For that reason, it was pretty much a no-brainer for me that I wouldn’t even attempt to write a story for the anthology Emma Mitchell announced she’d be putting together in time for Christmas last year.
I liked the idea of the book. As the press release at the time said:
When Stars Will Shine is a collection of short stories from your favourite authors who have come together to deliver you a Christmas read with a twist.
With true war tales that will break your heart, gritty Christmas crimes that will shake you to your core, and heart-warming tales of love lost and found, this anthology has something for everyone. And, with every penny made being sent to support our troops, you can rest assured that you’re helping our heroes, one page at a time.
From authors such as Louise Jensen, Graham Smith, Malcolm Hollingdrake, Lucy Cameron, Val Portelli, and Alex Kane, you are in for one heck of a ride!
When Stars Will Shine is the perfect Christmas gift for the bookworms in your life!
Obviously, Christmas has been and gone, but that doesn’t mean the book has. I did buy a copy in December but, as always, it took me a while to get to it. Which is strange really because the beauty of short stories is that you don’t have to commit lots of time to reading them. A quick one over breakfast, or lunch, or any moment when you’ve got ten minutes to spare is an ideal way to read without feeling you have to commit. I’ve said it before, but I really think the short story is a great way for people with limited time to keep reading – and more and more of us fall into that category these days.
So, what did I think? Inevitably with a wide range of authors, you get a mixed bag. As the theme was Christmas, there were a range of different types of story, including an interesting take on Santa from a child’s perspective, a Christmas where everything goes wrong, the obligatory ghost story, but also a smattering of crime – dark and cosy – plus, appropriately, enough, stories about soldiers, young and old. I’d be lying if I said each and every story made me dance with joy, but that’s the nature of the mixed bag – personal tastes won’t be satisfied by them all. But it does mean there’s something there for every reader. I had no complaints, and thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
Indeed, I’m looking forward to the follow up book, which I understand Emma is compiling even now. Though I won’t trouble her with my efforts. I think the word count limit will be far too low for me.
If you haven’t read When Stars Will Shine yet, give it a go. It’s available here as a paperback or eBook. Most important of all, it’s been compiled to raise money for Help For Heroes, a worthy cause I’m sure we can all get behind. Better still, buy a few copies and tuck them away ready to give out as presents next Christmas. They’ll be a great little stocking filler for the reader in your life!