We already talked about the when and why I started writing short stories. But what about you?
Pretend you’re back at school and your new English teacher is asking you to write an essay on the first day. (What a jerk, am I right?)
Here’s the question: Do you write short stories? Explain why or why not, then explain why you should write them.
(Because we all know essays have a million parts to them…)
To put this bluntly, short stories do everything a novel does. The difference is that a short story does it faster and sharper. You may or may not agree with me on that one, but that’s the best I can describe it, and here’s why:
What’s the length?
The answer to this question will vary depending on who you ask, but I looked to my good old pal, Writer’s Digest, and, according to them, a short story can be between 1,500-30,000 words, a novella between 30,000-50,000 words, and a novel between 55,000-300,000 words. (Although I do think short stories can go under the 1,500-word mark, then you’ll also enter flash fiction territory.)
[WARNING, MATH AHEAD!]
The difference between the shortest short story and the shortest novel is… let me get out my calculator…
How long does it take you to write 1,000 words? 10,000 words? 50,000 words? I know on a good day if I focus hard enough, I can write 2,000 words in one hour. That’s a short story.
Keeping that focus, I can write 10,000 words in five hours. That’s another short story.
That focus remaining, I can potentially write 55,000 words in 27 and a half hours. Of course, these 27 and a half hours would stretch into two, three, four, maybe five days.
[MATH IS OVER. YOU CAN BREATHE AGAIN.]
1. Short stories are short
In the amount of time it takes you to write a novel, you can write multiple short stories. This depends on how long the stories are and how long it takes you to write them, of course, but just bear with me.
Still, they’re faster to write, therefore less intimidating to edit. Then off to be submitted it goes!
2. Short stories help you master the basics of writing
Have you ever written a story with a word limit? You can only write 200 words, no more, no less. Yet, you write 239 words. You need to cut out 39 words, but which ones?
Not to mention you have to tighten everything in a shorter amount of time. You don’t have 55,000 words to allow your protagonist to grow. You only have 1,500 to do it and have it be realistic and make sense.
Short stories will help you…
- Tell your story as efficiently as possible
- Find our voice in writing – find your style as you write various shorts in different ways. See what works best for you, what you enjoy writing the most
- Find your genre – we all write multiple genres, but shorts allow us to explore each of them in a shorter amount of time and figure out what we really like
Short stories aren’t a short cut. People grow, therefore their writing grows with them. Just because they write a mystery short story and fall in love with it, doesn’t mean they’re going to write the next Agatha Christie novel. Still, it’s fun to experiment.
3. It gets those creative juices flowing
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten stuck on my novel. Instead of working on it, I found a prompt and then wrote a short story or flash fiction.
I also can’t explain how many of my novel ideas came from short stories I wrote.
Short stories are just fun to write. They’re experimental with ideas and writing basics and they can really get your name out there sooner rather than later.
I’m still editing my novels, but I have about three short stories that I query to magazines, contests, etc. And I’m working on more.