As we ramp up on the short story reading for our anthology submissions, I’ve been thinking about why short stories are so great—especially for authors whose focus is on longer fiction like novels. Next week we’ll talk about short story structure and tips for writing, but today we’ll focus on why writing them matters.
- Learn new methods of writing: Short stories allow you to play with new writing techniques, without committing to an entire novel. It’s a great way to focus on a particular skill—like dialogue, alliteration, developing villains, or whatever else—in a short piece. They’re also a great place to imitate the styles and skills of other writers as you attempt to develop your own voice.
- Quick Results: People who improve their skillsets are those who receive immediate feedback. If you’re writing a novel, for instance, with no feedback as you go, then you’re writing that entire novel at the same skill level. However, if you want feedback from friends or other readers, short stories are a great medium because they’re a complete piece. You can get fast feedback, have a new skillset, and incorporate what you’ve learned into your next piece of writing.
- Allow Yourself to Suck: Because short stories are, well, short, they’re a great place to allow yourself to experiment. Some are going to be good, some are going to suck, but when you’re finished, you still have a new story. Writing short stories frequently forces your brain to come up with new ideas and exercises your writing brain muscles. All of which helps when you take on the bigger projects.
- Play with Ideas: If you’re like most writers, you have a million different ideas for stories and characters. You probably won’t be able to make all of those into novels in this lifetime, so short stories are a great way to play with plots and characters to see what sticks.
- Break into the Business: Short stories are a great way to bulk up your resume or query letters. They are generally easier to get published than novels, and they allow you to show agents and publishers that you are capable of being chosen for publication.
Short Stories are fantastic on their own, or they can be used as sketches of a novel. They are a way to play with ideas and writing craft, without the frustration of committing to a novel that isn’t working. Whether it’s your first short story or you’ve written many before, there’s a lot of value in getting the ideas on the page in short form.