Saturday 15 May 2010

Short Stories

Amongst other things lately, I've been co-judging the Mystery Women short story competition with my good friend Ayo Onatade, who happens not only to be a great fan of crime fiction, but also one of the most knowledgable and supportive readers around. We've found it far from easy to make our decision, but finally we've managed to do it.

I well remember entering my own work for competitions, before I ever had any fiction published. For example, I submitted an early version of what became the first chapter of All the Lonely People. It got nowhere. But eventually, I won one, and it did give me a great motivational boost for which I shall always be grateful.

So I don’t begrudge the precious time devoted to reading competition entries when I really ought to be writing my own fiction. It’s a genuine privilege to have the opportunity to encourage people who write good stories, and I think it’s also something that is very worthwhile.

In a different way, it’s a honour to have the opportunity to consider contributions to the forthcoming CWA anthology that I’m editing, Original Sins. Here, of course, the standards of writing are very high – as one would expect from professional writers. The real challenge is to decide which of the many submissions to omit from the book. That’s the bit I don’t enjoy, but on the other hand it’s a rare treat to be the first person to read a new story by, for instance, Christopher Fowler or Reginald Hill. And a honour.


Anonymous said...

Martin - I know what you mean about reading other work (whether for a competition or not) when one's got one's own fiction to write. That's been happening to me, too, lately. I always find, though, that I learn from reading others' writing, and then my own work is better as a result. I consider that well worth the effort. And I get to read some good stuff, too : ).

Jane Finnis said...

Short stories are very satisfying to read, and to write, and I think it's a wonderful form for mysteries. I love getting my monthly copy of EQMM - a real feast. I haven't persuaded them to include one of my stories yet but I will one day - I don't know what is the record for number of short stories rejected by a particular magazine before one is accepted! Record for rejections for a novel (though not a mystery) may go to James Herriot, the writer of those lovely vet stories set in the Yorkshire Dales. He sent his first MS to 24 publishers and the 25th accepted it, and he became a best seller. I bet those other 24 felt like the record company that turned down the Beatles.

Dorte H said...

I think it is so discouraging when you hear about people who dream of becoming writers but don´t realize that you have to be a prolific reader first.

I like participating in competitions and contests, but it is difficult for me to work, write long manuscripts AND find the time to write short fiction. So I think it is admirable when writers like you take time to judge writing contests.

Martin Edwards said...

Margot, Jane and Dorte - many thanks for your comments, which I always appreciate.