7 Reasons to Write Short Stories

7 reasons to write Short StoriesI have a confession to make: I like short stories. I like to read them, those morsels of distant worlds, bite-sized and perfect for lunchtime and commuting. I like to write them too as they help me experiment with my style and explore all those tiny bits of ideas that wouldn’t suffice to become a basis of a novel. But for some reason many writers I talk to them online neither writes them or considers them worth the effort. Sure, one can’t make much money by writing short stories only, but there are still reasons to stop outlining that sixth novel in the series and instead tell a story in less than 7000 words.

1. Short stories require less time to write

Writing a novel for months or even years can be pretty difficult, and going through countless edits might be quite disheartening, while a short story is something that can be written over the weekend or in a week if you’re busy. Also the editing won’t take a lot of your precious time, so within a month (or even less) you have something complete you can send out to the world: either share it on your blog or submit to a magazine. It means that you’ll get feedback a lot quicker. And feedback—along with coffee—is one of the writer’s fuels.

2. Short stories help to improve your style

With limited amount of words at disposal, every single one of them starts to count and you learn how to present a complex world within a paragraph or introduce the character in a mere two sentences and still give him or her enough flavor for the readers to have a clear pictures in their heads. It means your style becomes more concise and polished, and you learn how to entice with your words.

3. Short stories are easier to let go

I often see people stuck working on the novels that have some major flaws making the fixes difficult or even impossible. They might even see the issues with their story or listened to the what critique partners and beta-readers say, but they refuse to let go because of all the time they’ve already invested in the novel. It’s hard to looks at months or years of hard work, countless rounds of editing and rewrites and say “I’m done with it now” with all the emotional attachment that have build over time. When a short story doesn’t work, it’s easier to move on and simply write another short story.

4. Short stories allow experiments

Ever thought of writing a story where a narrator is a stone? Or a story that is told in a future tense? One with no dialogues or to the contrary: one that is only a dialogue? An unusual narrative or other experiments with style always pose risk for the readers getting tired or discouraged, but the extremes are easier to digest in small portions. Short-story-sized portions, to be precise.

7 reasons to write Short Stories

5. Short stories don’t always require a fully developed world

While a speculative fiction novel needs careful planning and extensive world building, short stories most of the times focus only on one aspect of the world they’re set in or contain only fragment of the reality, so it’s easier to push through some unrefined ideas that might have not worked as a part of a bigger world. Extreme situations, unusual societies, weird locations: they often crumble when you try to fit them into a novel, but in a short story there’s neither place nor the need to show how they fit in the bigger picture.

6. Short stories allow you to reach out to the new readers

Having short stories published in multiple magazines and anthologies helps the writers to find new readers and new fans. People who had no idea your books exist might look them up just because they’ve liked your short story. And if they see your name around, here and there, they’ll start associating it with good fiction and search for more. Some magazines offer spotlights for their writers or retweet information about their new releases, and that’s some free publicity, isn’t it?

7. Short stories can be a challenge and a real test of your writing skills

I’ve heard several times that writing a good story is much more difficult than writing a good novel. While in the novel a slower chapter or a bland character might slip through, and the book would still leave a reader satisfied, this is not the case when it comes to short stories. With the limited amount of words every mistake imperfection can sink the story, and you only have little space to leave your reader impressed. To make them remember the story long time after they’ve finished it. And while I’d leave the question of which is harder to write open, I do consider short stories a real test. And between you and me, I don’t always pass it with flying colors.

These are my reasons for writing for short stories. What are yours? Or maybe you don’t have any and consider them a waste of time? I’ve been creating short stories ever since I’ve started writing and even working on my novels doesn’t change it as I take a few day breaks here and there to write another one, but I know of some people who had written multiple novels, but have never tried to write a short story. What about you?

11 thoughts on “7 Reasons to Write Short Stories”

  1. This is a great list, Joanna. Short stories really have their own beauty, and you highlight that unique beauty here. I haven’t written short stories in a while (at least 10 years… every story idea I’ve thought of since then has been novel-length!). But I’m planning to write a novella later this year, which is a longer short story… Yet the same reasons and advice would still apply, I think.

    1. Thank you, Sara. And yes, I agree that the same reasons would apply to a novella too. I just thought I should add the the reason: taking a break from a longer WIP. 😉

  2. I love short stories. There’s a spareness within the sparceness of the words that really appeals. That’s not to say that a saga isn’t enjoyable, but I do admire tight writing and the ability to focus intently, leaving all extraneous details aside. I’m pondering dipping my writing toe in …

  3. Yes, you are completely right. Still whenever I start a short story I end up writing something longer. I think I am cursed or my skills are poor indeed. I think I should work on it this year.

  4. This is a great post! I love these reasons. Honestly, they encompass a lot of the reasons I used to write short stories. The reasons I don’t anymore are for the inverse of a lot of the reasons on this list- for instance “they don’t require any world building” (I love world building) and “they’re easier to let go” (I’m one of those weirdos that loves the editing process)- I also like to sustain longer stories and test my writing that way. I always find short story ideas just explode into bigger ideas, or get swallowed up by my bigger ideas

    1. Thank you for stopping by. I’m similar, my short stories often grow into bigger things too, but there’s always some room for odd or weird fiction that is perfect for a short. 🙂

  5. This was well written and thought out and you make a strong case. Some see short stories as something a person does first before they start novels, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Short stories are great for exposure as you stated. Over the years I’ve met four publishers interested in putting my novels out there. ALL FOUR I met through giving them short stories. Just saying.

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