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If I’m being perfectly honest, short stories used to be the lowest on my priority list. Most of my ‘short stories’ involved a loose outline for a full-length novel I was planning. I wanted to focus on the whole thing rather than a snippet of a story.
But the more I got into writing, the more I realized there was actually a lot of benefit to writing short stories. Now that I’m entering my fourth week of full-time writing, I’ve already written three short stories and I have a fourth that has actually turned into a novel(la) idea — I’m unsure how long it’ll run.
Writing short stories has really helped me develop some of my talents as a writer and I’ve actually found a lot of really helpful things through these last four weeks alone. Here is why every writer should dabble with short stories.
Jump right in
I think one of my favorite parts about writing short stories is that I can just jump right in on the action. While I have to develop backstory to that point in time, I don’t have to worry about writing it. I can just get right to the meat of the story and write the action.
Because you start as close to the end as possible, there’s no need to waste words or develop filler scenes (my least favorite part of the writing process, hence most of my books contain very little if any). You can give little flashes of that history or passing mentions if it moves your story forward but otherwise you leave that imagination to the reader.
Besides, the action part (climax) is the best part of your story!
When you write short stories, you have to pack a punch in a short amount of words/time. It forces you to develop a lot of skills such as pace, action, grammar, and editing.
When I write the story in my first draft, I just go for it. I don’t worry about quick or short and just write it out how my head wants it to go. On the second pass, I do most of my editing. Usually that means cutting and reframing sentences to get to the point faster.
Is this detail really important? No? Cut it. Why do I have this scene where my character stops to smell the roses? Can I show her appreciating something else in a shorter or more impactful scene? Great, I’ll do that.
You also can’t sit around describing everything under the sun in your new world. Include the details that drive the story forward and leave the rest out. Learn to show your world without all the frivolous adjectives.
Try new ideas
Have an idea that you aren’t sure will turn into a full-length novel? Try something new with a short story. Write the short story as if it’s a prologue or an introduction to your world.
Test out the new idea with beta readers or put it out into the world. See what the reaction is. If it doesn’t gain traction, that’s okay. You still have a short story. If it does get attention, now you know the idea will have a fan base. Turn it into something more or write a collection of stories in that world and put together a little booklet.
You never know until you put it out in the world!
The more often your name is out there and in front of people, the more likely they’re going to click on your work. Having a bunch of short stories under your name can make you look better than just one large work (unless you’re already famous and on best-seller lists).
Get your work out into publications. You can spread your name far and wide by sending in your short work to publications and journals. Plus, every time someone likes your work, it increases the likelihood they will look into your other work.
Put your name out there and get traction. Let people remember your name the next time you have something new to put out into the world.
The benefit of getting visibility means that people will be interested in what you are writing. The more people enjoy your work, the more they want to follow. Short stories are a great way to entice people to sign up for your list or continue reading your work.
Reader magnets, or bonuses, are great ways to get people on your mailing lists. Give people a thank you for signing up (offer value) in the form of a short story. Maybe it’s your very first one or maybe you update it every time you write something new but think about enticing people to follow you.
Sure, you might get a list of people who only want the free stuff. You can cross them off your list later. But the more people who are on your list, the more people you can keep updated on your new publications, and the more likely you are to keep a reader buying or supporting your work down the road.
Start and finish something
When I wrote and finished my first short story in just a day (about 8K words), I went through the entire excitement of starting and finishing a story in a short amount of time. It was so exciting to sit down with an idea and come out at the end of the day with a completed draft.
I had been so used to the long and draining process of writing over the course of a week (I once wrote a full novel 50K words in 10 days and then I did an 85K word novel in 14) that I was completely shocked to be done in just a day. And I loved it.
If you have trouble with finishing your full-length works, test out short stories. You can find the momentum to finish an idea in a shorter amount of time and then use that practice to translate into longer stories.
Or, if you’re like me and have trouble starting a novel, test out short stories. You get to start closer to the action, you don’t have to worry about a super long build-up of tension, and you can just get to the good stuff. Begin your short story as close to the end as you can and jump right into the best part.
You can read my first short story and get the first chapter of my third novel If Found, Do Not Return by joining my tribe. Get updates on new short stories and other full-length projects and my writing life.