Wednesday, 22 February 2012

You Can Jump

Mat Coward is someone I've never met, but we've corresponded with each other for years, and I've included several of his short stories in anthologies that I've edited. He's a man of many accomplshments, an occasional novelist, and involved with that intriguing TV programme QI. But arguably, his stand-out achievements are in the field of short stories. He's original and witty, a real master of the form.

His new collection,You Can Jump, is now available. Four of the dozen stories that it contains have featured in anthologies I've edited, so naturally I think they are good, but suffice to say that the standard doesn't falter in the other entries, which have previously appeared in a range of good homes,including books edited by Anne Perry and Jeffrey Deaver.

I asked Mat what appealed to him about the short form and found his answer interesting:

'Someone asked me the other day "Why are writers so keen on writing short stories?" Her puzzlement was genuine; if she was a writer, her frown said clearly, she'd be getting on with the real work - the novels, the stuff that people actually read, and review, and that might even make some money.

But it's true: most writers - or at least, most crime writers of my acquaintance - love writing shorts, and will take any opportunity to do so, even stealing time from their book schedules, despite the numerous disadvantages of the form: not the least of which is that hardly anyone publishes short stories. Which, you know, is quite a significant drawback.

There are lots of answers I could have given to the question - and I'm sure you'd collect more answers the more writers you asked - but there is one obvious reason which is not often mentioned.

Short stories are short.

I like writing short stories because I can complete more of them, in a given lifespan, than I can novels. There is a type of short story which is really just a pre-edited novel; it's all there, it's just shorter, which means you can do more of them.

So, that' s one answer: I like writing short stories because I like finishing things.'

The paperback is available from his website (or on order from bookshops and libraries, of course) and the ebook is at available here.


Carol said...

I see some writers using short stories (in the electronic form) as a marketing tool to entice readers to try a sample of their writing for a minimal amount of money. It's also a good way to keep reader interest alive if there's a lengthy period between novels.

Shelley said...

The challenge of the short story is that, properly done, it cannot have one. Wasted. Word.

Mat said...

Many thanks for mentioning my book, Martin. I notice the link above isn't working, so just in case anyone wants to get there, my website is at

Sally Spedding said...

And you, Martin, help fellow short story writers get into print.

Not every busy writer is so altruistic. Keep up the good work!