Time is precious. As writers, we’re likely juggling multiple projects, so we want to be sure we’re spending most of our time on the things that are important to us. Where does short fiction fall on our priority list? Are there benefits to devoting time to this endeavor? I believe there are some worthy reasons to add short stories to our body of work.
Every word counts in short fiction.
Short fiction must still have well-developed characters, a complete story arc, and a distinctive voice, but everything has to unfold quickly, using far fewer words. With less space to tell the tale, you may find you’re more vigilant than ever about tightening the language, using strong imagery, powerful verbs, and essential dialogue. Each scene has to have a defined purpose, and the pacing of the story must be adjusted for its length. When I return to my novel after writing a short story, I pay more attention to these writing essentials.
Short stories are a place to experiment.
Experiment with voice. Try writing in a different genre. Use a different point of view. The short fiction form allows writers to try something new without committing to a full-length novel. My books are science fiction, and while my short stories still fall under the speculative fiction genre, I’ve been able to experiment with ghost stories, fantasy, modern horror, and near-future apocalypse tales. Take a risk with your short story. Step outside your comfort zone. Enjoy the adventure!
Short stories take less time to write than novels.
This may seem obvious, but as writers, we’re in it for the long game. A full-length novel can sometimes take a year or more to draft, but a short story can take just a few weeks. It’s satisfying to complete a project. I can write three or four per year without interfering with my novel-writing schedule.
Short stories can help get the words flowing.
If you feel stuck in your novel-writing rhythm, try taking a quick break to write a short story. This may be just what you need to get your creativity flowing again. You’re still writing, but you’re focused on something fresh for a little while. This exercise takes long enough to offer relief from my writer’s block, but not long enough to divert me from the endgame of finishing my novel.
Use short fiction to drive readers to your books.
The more work you have out there, the more opportunity readers have to find you. You can use short stories to further explore a world you’ve already created in your novels. Take a minor character and send them off on an adventure. Craft a “deleted scene” and offer it as an enticement to readers. Be creative! Short fiction offers an avenue to help build your body of work and funnel readers to your novels.
Writing short fiction has allowed me to explore my writing style, experiment with ideas, hone my craft, and build my body of work and reputation as an author. And because they are less of a commitment in terms of time and energy, short stories are satisfying and fun to write!