Whether you’re beginning your writing journey or looking for a distraction from your latest novel manuscript, short stories are a great way for writers to grow. In fact, we’ve collected 10 great reasons to consider making your next story a short one!
1. You get instant gratification
It’s incredibly rewarding when you finish a novel-length manuscript but, with short stories, you get that dopamine hit much sooner!
Short stories are also a great vehicle for you to take risks with your writing. Challenge yourself to take risks in your short stories. Try a point of view you’ve never written before or a character that might not sustain a story. The exploration is half the fun!
2. You get to practise your starting points over and over
Starting a story in the right place is often the key to making the whole thing come together at the end. When you write a novel, it might be several months before you find out if you got your opening right or if there’s a whole lot of editing in your future.
With a short story, you have to start in the middle of the action and hook that reader up front. There’s no room for a prologue and pages of backstory. Which makes short stories terrific practice for anyone who struggles to get the start right.
3. Short stories offer room to play
Have you always wanted to write a crime novel? A romantic comedy? A middle-grade adventure? Short stories allow you to dip a toe into the waters of a new genre without committing to a marathon swim. It’s fun to play with language and characters in an unfamiliar space, so try the short form!
4. Short stories demand tight structure
In a well-written short story, the ending may be ambiguous – but there is never any doubt that the reader has reached The End. Learning to construct a full and complete narrative within a limited word count is the best kind of training for longer form writing. There’s a reason that short stories are referred to as an ‘art form’.
5. What starts out short might be the key to your next novel
Developing a character, or place, or situation for a short story is a no-pressure way to try out ideas. But sometimes that idea might live on in your head, long after your 1000, or 2000 or 5000 word story is finished – and that’s when you might start to consider whether that short story was the gateway into a novel.
6. Learn to sketch your characters quickly
In a short story, you don’t have room for a ‘laundry list’ of your character’s strengths, weaknesses, physical attributes and personality quirks. Instead, your character must develop with the story and be shown through dialogue, sharp description, interactions and action in the narrative. You also need to consider just how many characters a story actually needs to work. It is fantastic training for all forms of fiction.
7. Short stories require controlled pacing
When you’re starting out as a writer, pacing can be a problem. With a novel, you have room to move into a story and a word count that can disguise the fact that a scene has no purpose beyond making you feel good about your prose. In a short story, every word counts and you will soon recognise the description or dialogue that might be slowing down your narrative’s momentum.
8. Short stories are a balm after the marathon of a novel
There’s a period after you write a novel when the idea of creating another sentence ever again in your life feels impossible. Short stories can help. Like an easy swim the day after an intensive training session, they allow you to ease those writerly muscles back into shape. If you’re feeling burnt out, try a short story to help you find your motivation again.
9. Short stories hone your editing skills
As mentioned, every word counts in a short story, which means your editing skills need to be sharp and focussed. If your word count has blown out, look at why – have you started in the right place? Is your pacing off? Do you need all of those characters? A short story allows you to practise your structural editing skills on a smaller scale before you have to move upwards of 70,000 words around.
10. Publishing credits and portfolios
If you’re working on your first novel, short stories are a terrific way to learn about the submissions and editing processes. By following the guidelines and submitting to journals and competitions, you can practise the skills and learn more about the industry. If your story is accepted to a journal, you’ll also get to experience the joys of being edited by a professional editor (with all of the lessons inherent in that) as well as adding publishing credits to your writing portfolio!
Write your short story today
Discover the wonderful world of Short Stories with the self-paced course Short Story Essentials. You’ll be led, step-by-step in creating your own compelling story. You’ll also be provided with a blueprint you can use for any idea that you want to turn into a short story into the future. AND you’ll get personalised feedback on your very own short story from an experienced editor. The best part is that you can do this at your own pace and you have 12 months to complete it in case life gets busy! Enrol now and discover the world of short stories today.
Allison Tait is the author of three epic middle-grade adventure series for kids: The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. A presenter at AWC and former co-host of the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast, Al has convinced herself to write more short stories. Find out more about her at allisontait.com.