Do you know the 8 reasons why you should write short stories?
Welcome to this guest post from fellow author Alana Turner about why short story writing is important.
Guest Post – Alana Turner
8 Reasons You Should Write Short Stories
Short stories are near and dear to my heart. They are the entire reason I’ve won two writing awards, been published five times, and have the title of “Amazon Best-Seller” 3 times over. This is all despite the fact that the first work I ever submitted, and was successful with, I had written 4 years prior and didn’t so much as proofread. There are several reasons why I think I made the right initial move, despite the fact I made the move so brashly.
First, let’s make sure we are on the same page. Short stories are defined as works between one thousand and ten thousand words, ten to twenty thousand is considered a novelette, but I’ve seen those included as well. Just under forty thousand and you have a novella. Anything more than that and it is a full blown novel. That is the only difference: word count. Now before this article turns into a novelette, let me get to the point. So, in no particular order, here are the 8 reasons why you should write short stories.
1: Writing Practice
This is a fairly obvious one. Like every writer you probably have a million book ideas buzzing around your head. You might even have one or two you’re eager to work on. If you’re like me you’ll be cautious because you don’t want to ruin the masterpiece in your head or because you don’t want to burn yourself out-more on that later. This is why you start small.
Short stories also give you a chance to work on plot. Everyone loves good characters, and that is hugely important, but plot is what brings readers to you in the first place. It can be easy in a novel to get lost in side-plots, character development, or world building. Short stories are going to help you hone your outlining and focus. This is because, depending on genre, they are going to focus less on characters and more on plot. It’s short, you’re going to want to keep it simple, but tell it well.
A simple thing done well is far more impressive than a complex thing done badly.
As a writer, you’re probably in love with your current big idea. I’m sorry to break the news to you, but that love won’t be consistent. When you’ve been working on that one idea for months or years straight, agonizing over it, trying to do it justice and you’re still nowhere near the end, you’re going to hate that story. You’re gonna need to take a break from it once in a while.
Take it from me. I’d write a short story after every five chapters of my wip novel, Blood of the Covenant, just to cleanse my brain of it. I’m not the only one. Taylah Morgan, another short story author and friend, fell in love with a NaNoWriMo piece, but after years of work felt “the rewards weren’t worth all the stress” and she abandoned the project.
Short stories don’t require near the commitment a book does. Where a book may take upwards of a year, or even into a decade, a short story is probably only gonna take a month, maybe two. You’re a lot less likely to burn out on the idea when you take a break from it. If you’re writing short stories, you’re still getting something done too.
3: Finishing A Story
You’ll also get a taste of what it’s like to finish a story. It’s important to build that addiction early.
I probably started five different novels in high school–never finished one. That is a whole bunch of practice at beginnings as compared to endings. Every good reader knows the ending is crucial to quality. You’ll get this practice in with a short story.
Not to mention it feels good to look at a complete product that you made. I can tell you right now, it doesn’t matter how long the piece is, typing the word “The End” always feels good. Take it from urban fantasy author, Carrow Brown. While slogging over the second installment in her series she was asked to write a short story for her newsletter. “It felt great to start and finish something in a week instead of three months drafting, and another two in revision.” She now also has a series of short stories out under the name Faye Black.
Bringing a work to completion is a big feeling. Chase it.
4: Editing Practice
Trust me, you’re going to need it.
You may be thinking “but that’s what editors are for.”
Oh, honey, no. Before you get there you’re going to want to edit it yourself. That is a learning curve all its own.
You might submit one story to several places, and you very well may have to change the word count accordingly. Padding out word count and cutting it down effectively is a skill set you’re going to want. Let me tell you, as someone currently editing a novel it is a whole lot easier to edit twenty thousand words or less than it is forty thousand. I don’t care which way you’re going. Depending on where you go with that piece you may even get to work with a professional editor as well.
Practice with short stories. You’ll thank me later.
5: Writing Awards/Accolades
Who doesn’t like being a winner?
Okay, so you may not necessarily “win” a contest, but you may be second place, third, a runner up, or an honorable mention. Most of the time, that still means your piece is getting published somewhere. That in and of itself is an accolade.
If you do win, congrats! You have something cool to add to your author bio (because if you get anything published you’re now an author). That professional clout can potentially do you good.
If absolutely nothing else, it will be one heck of a confidence boost. One of my awards is the “1st Place in the Plot Monster Writing Contest” and if you think I don’t have that printed, laminated, and framed you got another thing coming.
Cherish all accomplishments, big and small.
6: Group Anthologies
This could be a list in and of itself. You probably skipped the introduction to this, but if you didn’t you know I have some experience with these. Group anthologies are near and dear to my heart. I cannot possibly stress enough how awesome it is to be a part of one of these. As well as everything mentioned above, working on one of these gives you the best networking opportunities as well as access to other author’s audiences.
My first piece I ever published was in an indie group anthology run by Dan Alatorre. It was the second in the Box Under the Bed series to be specific. I’ve since worked with him on the third installment as well, along with over 20 others. That and the Autumn Nights anthology, led by Cass Kim, gave me extensive knowledge about the writing world. In essence, it gave me a huge leg up.
Let me explain.
The networking opportunities may be fairly obvious. You’re going to be working directly with ten plus other authors, maybe an editor, and you’re all going to be talking about each entry and the project as a whole. You’re given a direct line to potential mentors, marketing wizzes, editors, beta readers, and other authors. It is a Mecca of connection and you can learn SO MUCH from this.
Use it wisely.
These are hugely beneficial to building your brand, a topic I’ll go into more in a moment. The big thing to remember is that you’re going to be directly pulling from at least 9 (not including your own) other audiences. That is a lot of guaranteed readers.
Overall it can be a fantastic experience I can’t possibly recommend enough.
7: Familiarization with Self-Publishing
While writing this article, it was brought to my attention that many people may prefer to keep their work, short stories included, on its own, an only child piece if you will. The most common way to do this is through self-publishing, a process I am familiar with but currently have no experience in doing. For more information I went to author Dana Gaulin (aka Ava Fox).
For those unfamiliar, self-publishing is when you decide to put your work out there on your own without the aid of a publisher. It’s more work, but potentially bigger profit, as well as more freedom. That extra work is monumentous though, requiring extra knowledge on many things. Both options are entirely valid, but self-publishing can be very attractive when it comes to short stories.
When talking with Dana she told me that while publishing anything is always going to be nerve wracking, once you’ve done it a few times it can take the edge off. That is a sentiment I have to agree with. With all the ins and outs to learn, it can be a good idea to get hands on with it early. I personally would rather get practice figuring out the ins and outs of how to self-publish with a piece I spent a few months on rather than one I spent over a year on.
It will also give you an idea early on if self-publishing is right for you. You may have plans to query a longer manuscript and find you like this better, or vise versa. Giving yourself time to figure out what works for you can be a vital step to success and doing trial runs with short stories can be a great way to accomplish that.
8: Building Your Brand
I said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m sure you have a million ideas buzzing around that writer brain of yours. Good money says they have to do with more than one story. Having a backlog is great. Writing multiple novels is pretty difficult.
So, start opening up entry points to your work with short stories. The more work you have out there the more likely people are going to find you. Finding that first work, if they like it, will encourage them to look at more work of yours. Being a successful writer can be a bit of a numbers game. More pieces available usually means more readers.
Put your stories out there as often as you can. By the time you write a book you’ll already have several people that are familiar with you. The more familiar they are with you the more likely they are to buy and read that book.
So, there you have it…
My eight reasons why you should be writing short stories. Granted, a lot of this is best for beginning writers, but even if you have a book or two out these can prove useful. This strategy has worked very well for others as well as myself, and I hope it is useful to you. Whatever you choose to work on, whatever length, whatever genre, I wish you the best of luck. Happy writing, friends.
Thank you Alana for your awesome guest post with 8 reasons why we should write short stories! Such valuable insight into the writing community. Catch up with Alana on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads for more of her incredible work.
Thanks for reading 8 Reasons Why You Should Write Short Stories. Join me next time for fun blog posts! What did you think of Alana’s post? Please comment below.
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