Forget plot, be honest, read in order
WB:“It’s become very rarefied. It’s akin to changes in painting, and the form has changed. The short story asks a lot of the reader.”
EnD:“Elizabeth Bowen said the short story was ‘the most modern form’. And it’s the most writerly form.”
Can you take more risks with a short story?
EnD:“You can do more artistically, yes, and hope to find readers who will get what you’re doing, but it still has to work at a level they enjoy. When I publish a collection, people come up to me and say ‘I read that story’, meaning they read a story, which is not something they’d say to a novelist.”
KB:“It drives me mad when people when people don’t read the collection in the order it’s written. I plan it for months. I imagine I’m Marvin Gaye, and reel them in with the order.”
People often assume short stories, due to their brevity, can be written quickly. How long does it take you?
WB:“God, some things take years. Some stories can be 20-plus drafts.”
KB:“The best stories come quite quickly, in a couple of weeks. I have some stories, ones I like, that went through 40-odd drafts. Ones that were awful for a long time, because of something very stupid on my part that I didn’t see. Other stories can take two mornings.”
EnD:“I can remember writing a story in one day, but more recently my stories have become very long. I wrote one for Kevin [for Town and Country, an Irish anthology due to be published in June], but it took about a month.
“The means of writing, with computers, makes it easier. When you read about writers in the past, 50 drafts means something very different.”
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard?
EnD:“David Marcus said that a writer should put a story away in a drawer for six months and then go back to it.”
KB:“That’s the one piece of hoary old writing advice that is actually true . . . A story needs time for seasoning. I need to do this because I usually think everything is wonderful and then I put it away for a month, take it out and see that it’s not great.
“I write a lot of stories, so my room at home is like a junkyard of half-dead stories. I try to weld bits together to make Frankenstein’s monster come to life. Ray Bradbury said that if you write a story a week, it’s impossible to write 52 bad stories in a year, so write lots of them.”