Why You Should Write Short Stories
“Write a short story every week. It's not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.” ― Ray Bradbury
Previously I posted an article about why you should read short stories. In this article, I’ll argue why you should write short stories as a writer.
Years ago I attempted to write multiple novels. All projects failed miserably. I was too much. Too complicated. I got distracted easily. Usually by new ideas.
Enter the short story. If it wasn’t for my idea to start a website and publish my own short stories every month (commitment), I would have never continued to write fiction.
Writing short stories has taught me so much. It never ceases to amaze me where my next short story leads me and what I learn from them.
So, why should you be bothered to write short stories? Here’s why:
1. For practice, exercise and finding your voice
When you write short stories on a regular basis, you will become better at writing. It’s an ideal way to hone your craft, to practice and to exercise.
While you are in your creative playground while writing a short, you’re better able to find your writing voice. (I’ve written about that before).
You can play around with characters and train yourself to create well-rounded personalities. Besides that, you learn to create a good plot, suspense, structure, and dialogue.
The main difference with a novel is the length. The shorter length forces you to put all elements of a good story in fewer words. With the benefit of not have to plan at length and not having to complicate things.
Last, by writing short stories you become better at editing yourself.
2. To find your genres and themes
With every short story, I get to try new genres and themes. I’ve done sci-fi and fantasy mostly, but I’ve also experimented with fables and regular drama.
I write about human virtues and vices, societal issues such as climate change, futurism, basic income, space travel, dystopian futures. I try a lot.
This way, you’ll find what you like to write about and in which genre. What works for you? How can you best convey your message, your ideas?
Shorts are great to convey your thoughts on societal issues. Plus, you get to study genres and further your understanding of different topics and themes. This will make you better at your craft.
3. To try out new ideas in a short time
“I like to write short stories more because I never met a writer who wasn't lazy. And a short story is, by its very definition, short. It is something that generally you can turn out in a week to two weeks depending on how well it goes for you. But, at the same time, it gives the same satisfaction of creating a complete world.” – Stephen King
With a novel, you work with one main idea. One main story and one set of characters.
With short story writing, you get to explore different universes, themes, stories and characters every time. This is great to train your idea muscle!
Keep a notebook/app for your ideas. This could be fragments, character sketches, quotes, anything, which you can use for your (short) story.
I also keep a list of topics that fascinate me and that I want to explore. Then, when I start writing I try them out.
By writing short stories, you keep your creative spark burning.
4. To see if a potential novel idea works
I’ve published a lot of short stories now and have received so much feedback, suggestions, and questions.
Three really stood out for me. About The Sapien Zoo, someone said that it could work as a screenplay. Multiple people suggested of The System Shutdown and its follow-up The Democr App to make a novel out of it. And with The Planet’s Party, someone commented that they’d like to see that story as an illustrated book for children.
My point? Your short stories could turn into something more. Hugh Howey, the author of the Wool series, first published a novella. His fans were so adamant for him to turn it into a novel and he listened. It’s one of those self-publishing success stories.
So use your shorts as a pool of inspiration. They could be origin stories to a novel. You could develop a new kind of world in which you’d like to play out different stories. Maybe you fall in love with a character whom you think should deserve a novel.
5. Gain visibility
Short stories are great for marketing your work too. Free shorts are a great incentive to get readers to subscribe to your newsletter or keep them engaged with characters until a next release. You can publish them in the Amazon Kindle store for further visibility.
With thousands of both print and online publications, you can increase your visibility. Try to get published in multiple outlets: blogs, magazines, etc. If you get reposted on another blog or published in a literary magazine you reach new potential fans. If you’re lucky, you can get noticed by publishers.
Sending out your stories is, well, kinda shitty. You have to deal with a lot of rejection. And even more people who just never respond. You better get used to it if you dream of publishing a novel in the future. It comes with the trade. Develop thick skin, you’ll be fine.
“A short story is a different thing altogether – a short story is like a quick kiss in the dark from a stranger.” – Stephen King
I’ve probably scratched the surface here, there are plenty of other reasons to write short stories yourself.
I love writing short stories. If only I had more time to write more. I’ve about sixty ideas lying around to write about…
In a year’s time, my shorts have been reposted on several blogs (big and small), I have received a lot of feedback, I’ve improved my writing, found my favorite genres and themes. Yeah, I’m happy to write them.
I hope you’ll experiment with short story writing!
Do you have any of your own short stories to share? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to check them out!