Posted in short story writing, Writing

Why Should You Write Short Stories?

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…)

Why should you write short stories?

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…

53,500 words.

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.

In conclusion…

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.

Why do you write short stories? Do you think short story writing is a good thing? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
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Author:

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Rachel Poli is a writer and blogger. She has an associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education and a bachelor’s degree in English Studies. She enjoys writing young adult novels, middle-grade, and children’s picture books. She is currently working on her first novel.

32 thoughts on “Why Should You Write Short Stories?

  1. Am I the only one who answered, “No,” to the question about the English teacher asking us to write an essay on the first day back being a jerk? Personally, I’d consider it an excellent first day back at school if it started like that (and, yes, I did feel that way while in school too). Also, am I the only one who got excited when you said it was time for some maths?

    Yeah, OK, I know… I’m weird. I can’t help it if I love writing anything – even essays – and always loved maths so much I actually had my maths teacher give me some homework one weekend when nobody else had any because I wanted some maths to enjoy over the weekend. Yes, that really happened.

    As for the short stories. Those are great reasons to write short stories. The fact they’re quicker to write than novels, and my children’s stories are short story length, is how I’m usually able to publish several books a year so easily. I say “usually,” because this year has been a slow one due to a combination of a lot of workmen doing repairs in our building (I can write with noise, but there are limits) and me spending so much time working on audiobook production. I’ve only published one story and a poetry collection this year.

    1. Lol, I’m sure you’re not the only one! I always still had “summer” on the brain the first week or so of school so any homework made me groan. Also, I don’t mind writing essays, but the kinds of essays we had to write in school I had a hard time enjoying because they kind of sucked the fun out of it, if that makes sense.

      As for math… I’m terrible at it. I don’t understand it at all. But that’s just me. 😉

      Short stories are overall just great no matter what, whether it’s to save some time or just practice your skills. And they’re fun to read, of course.

      1. Yes, writing short stories is fun, regardless of why you do it.

        I guess my teachers just made essay writing more fun? Either that or I’m just weird, which my hubby assures me regularly is the case, so… *Shrugs* Either way, I even enjoyed when other teachers – history teachers, for example – wanted essays.

        I’ve always been good at maths. I’m not sure if I enjoyed it because I’m good at it, or if I’m good at it because I enjoy it enough that I want to do it. Either way, I always did well with maths, and considered any day where I had both maths and English on the same day to be an awesome school day.

      2. I think the main thing with the essays were that I loved the research and the actual writing of it, but then you have to follow the teachers’ guidelines with it. I just wanted to write how I wanted, lol.

        That’s good for you though. Not a lot of people (that I know of) can say they’re good at both math and English. They’re both excellent skills, of course.

  2. Love writing shorts. An excellent vehicle for, “Show don’t tell.” Introduce a character or setting, let the mind of the reader do the rest. Due to brevity chance of flat spots lessened. By far the best fiction both to read and write.

  3. I love writing short stories, especially on my blog! I even love the smallest form of short stories, so called drabbles with only 100 words. 😉 I’ve found out that the interest of many following bloggers shrink when an article has more than 1.500 words. So I try my best to concentrate the themes I’m telling about within this number of words. 😉

    1. Yes, I’ve heard that too. The longer the post, the more likely people will just skim or skip it all together. I try to keep it short and sweet as well. But then I ramble, lol.

    1. I was just going by what Writer’s Digest said. But the length of a novel, novella, short story, etc. isn’t really set in stone. I think the 5,000 words in between the 50- and 55,000 is considered “wiggle room” for whether your story is considered novel or novella. But it depends on your perspective. People say different things.

  4. I wouldn’t be me without my short stories. I write them because they really get my creative cogs turning, and I love challenges where we’re told to write one in so many words, or from a photo prompt. I’ve written a lot of them since I started to blog. I’m told it’s harder to write short stories than it is a novel. I’m not so sure, given that I gave up on my novel when I discovered my love for shorter fiction.
    Great subject you’ve raised though, Rachel

    1. That’s great that short stories are your “thing.” They certainly do help with the writing skill and exercise your imagination pretty well. Depending on the story, I feel like short stories can either be easier or harder than novels. I think it also depends on the day and my mood too, lol.
      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. 🙂

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