Writing short stories is a talent that cannot be celebrated enough. Nor should it be underestimated for its contribution towards developing a writer’s skill.
Short stories are a fantastic way to learn to focus your writing; teaching you to capture details of any scene with absolute precision with fewer words.
The author of a short story will harness the power of writing to draw the reader in from the opening line, and not let them go until the last word. This skill is truly amazing in the writing world and is extremely hard to master.
After all, when you write a full-length novel, you have all the time in the world to set the scene, introduce your characters, and build the narrative. But a short story writer has to work fast. They have to work hard to make each word earn its place on the page.
That’s not to say that a novel writer can just throw any old words down… not at all.
Their words must also be carefully selected so they deliver exactly what the narrative needs. But in a short story, the author does this in earnest.
Why do people write short stories instead of full novels?
What a strange question to ask. But it’s common.
Why do people paint portraits as opposed to painting landscapes or abstract? Why do people play golf instead of tennis or chess? I suppose, it all comes down to personal preference.
It’s apples and oranges
Consider for a moment, the words of movie director, Martin Scorsese.
A fantastic director of some of the greatest movies to hit the screens in a lifetime. Yet, artistic snobbery saw him compare the Marvel movies to theme parks. And then finish off his insult with, “that’s not cinema.”
His opinion is shared by many, but there are millions of people who love theme parks. And millions who love the Marvel movies. Evidenced by the amount their movies bring in time and time again.
Snobbery within the writing world is just the same. Some will hold certain types of writing in higher regard than others.
For example, some may not consider YA or Sci-fi as “real literature.” And others will say that to create an entire world with new races, powers and magical creatures is to be truly artistic.
The world would be a boring place if we only had one flavour of book.
And this is where short stories come into their own.
I don’t always have the time to dive head-first into a seventy-five-thousand-word piece of art. But I can often squeeze in a short story.
I love short stories. Reading them and writing them. And they can be a great way to exercise your writing skills.
Currently, I’m enjoying Wearing Shadows by Simon Paul Woodward (Quick disclosure: This is an affiliate link).
Define a short story.
Ranging anywhere from 1000-7500 words; a short story is a piece of fiction that can be enjoyed within an hour or so.
That being said, there is no upper or lower limit, as long as the story has all the elements of a story arc. They are:
- Introduction/Inciting incident.
- Action building.
- Post action.
To make these elements work, the writer will need to use Character, Setting, Plot, Conflict, and Theme, with surgical precision. If done well, they will combine them all to make an enthralling piece of literature.
However, a short story isn’t an elaborate journey. There are no backstories or sub-plots to add layers to the narrative. They are by definition – short.
A good shorty story should see you settle in at page one on a lazy Sunday afternoon when you’re uncomfortably full from Sunday lunch, and completely forget about the world around you for an hour or so.
Or, you could switch off when your other half is watching ‘celebrity whatever’ (or whatever new ‘talent’ show T.V producers have renamed).
They are also great for passing the time when travelling.
Get yourself the Kindle app and read them on the go.
Editing short stories
You edit a short story the same way you edit a novel; starting with THESE basic tips. Then, you take it to a professional or two.
You will need to ensure every word earns its place on the page, and every sentence needs to contribute towards the narrative.
Whereas editing a novel of sixty-thousand words will demand a lot of time and energy, a short story will take a fraction of the time. But take note, I said time, not quality.
I would also recommend employing editors to help polish the final product. Even short stories will benefit from the keen eye of an experienced editor.
With the work only comprising of a few thousand words, it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. And as an added bonus, you will be able to learn from professional feedback and avoid the same mistakes in future.
Remember, anything worth doing is worth doing well.
Give your work the attention it deserves. Time and effort are the ingredients needed to make a piece of literature reach its potential. And a good editor is the cherry on top.
Releasing them as standalone stories or in a collection.
Releasing a series of short stories is an interesting concept. A great short story will always leave the reader wanting more.
Think of a great novel and think of a chapter that enchanted you. Maybe a few chapters that got your heart racing and every turn of the page was motivated by the need to know what happens next.
Now, it’s hard for a full-length novel to keep that pace going from start to finish. But a well-written short story can do it with ease.
When the last words are devoured and the reader is left wanting more, it could be a great idea to bring the characters back in another book.
It doesn’t have to be a sequel or a prequel. It could be a series of short stories that gives the reader exactly what they want, but in smaller pieces.
An interesting sidenote to this is marketing.
Releasing short stories will see you regularly produce work that readers will (hopefully) enjoy. And when they see your next story is on its way, they will keep an eye out for it and stir up some excitement for it.
This helps with marketing your author platform and will help you build a readership.
And if you continue to publish, eventually, you’ll be in a position to release a collection that your readers will line up for.
If you have a million and one ideas for a story and they don’t all fit into the same narrative, writing short stories might be your calling.
There are so many writers out there who work on multiple books simultaneously. But the overwhelming majority fail to get to the end of any of them.
This is because they are too busy with too many WIPs.
If this sounds like you, please, try short stories.
You don’t have to release them as short stories if your vision is to release a novel. You could save them for a rainy day and build the narrative scene by scene. But by writing them as shorts to begin with, you will give yourself a full story arc to work with.
Or, you could release them as a bundle of short stories in one book. This is an increasingly popular genre that will help you build your platform, and get your name recognised.