I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from social media lately and it’s been refreshing, but its time to get back on that horse, and my first order of business is this blog post (apologies to my Facebook and Twitter friends). I have been busy personally during this little respite—traveling, getting through the holidays, and moving into a new house. I have also been busy professionally writing short fiction. It’s true! Those of you who have read my somewhat long-winded trilogy may not believe it possible, but lately I’ve been turning out finished products that are between 3000 and 5000 words. Why? Well, I was inspired to try my hand at short fiction for several reasons—the major ones being to explore new ideas and try out new genres. Also, I read this wonderful article by Anne R. Allen http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/9-ways-writing-short-stories-can-pay-off-for-writers, which suggests, “short stories are having a revival in the digital age.” One need only look at the success of Kindle Singles for confirmation of this statement. http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2013/sep/05/amazon-kindle-singles-short
If that isn’t reason enough to write short fiction, here are some other considerations that influenced me, and five reasons why you may want think about taking it up yourself.
- You Probably Already Have Short Story Material Lying Around.
This summer I took some writing workshops for fun and my own edification. I had in mind to use my assignments to explore ideas for my next novel, but by the end of the summer I still had not decided which plot I was most attracted to—I loved them all. Then I realized that I already had material enough for at least three short stories using what I had written in my workshops. If you’re like me and many other writers, you probably have numerous half-written novels or stories growing mold in a desk drawer or on a flash drive. Why not dig out these hidden gems, dust them off, and revise them as short fiction? Don’t let all that hard work go to waste. Use your skills to transform your discarded material into something salable. Don’t get me wrong, writing short stories is an art, and you need a slightly different skill set to master the craft, but there is help out there. I found these two books to be enormously informative: Short Story: From First Draft to Final Product, by Michael Milton http://www.amazon.com/SHORT-STORY-FIRST-Draft-Product-ebook/dp/B00FDUMTRE; and Let’s Write a Short Story, by Joe Bunting http://www.amazon.com/Lets-Write-Short-Story-Bunting-ebook/dp/B008Z96GF6
- Writing Short Fiction Helps Hone Your Writing Skills.
One of the best and most experienced editors I ever met told me that the key to good writing is clarity. I’ve never forgotten this and have lately striven to make my writing more crisp and concise. Writing short fiction forces you to do this. You take a big story and whittle it down to the minimum amount of words possible to get the reader on board, sweep them along for the ride, and deposit them at the end of the express lane feeling deeply satisfied. It’s not always easy, but it forces you to dump every superfluous adjective and adverb and use the precise word necessary to covey the exact idea or emotion you’re trying to get across. I took one of my stories that began at 5700 words and cut it down to 5000 words to enter it into a short story contest. Then I found another contest that seemed even more perfect for my story, the problem was, I had to cut it nearly in half—to 3000 words. It was painful! But, I was shocked to find that I actually liked the 3000-word story much better. It was an enlightening exercise.
- You See the Results of Your Labor Much Sooner.
It took me about a year to write each of my three novels—that’s a big chunk of time. Looking at the busy year ahead of me, I decided I wanted to take on some shorter projects that would allow me to do more in the same amount of time. Writing short fiction has not only given me a sense of accomplishing more in less time, but it has also opened up a new area of interest for me, which I can turn to whenever I’m stuck in my writing or looking for a pleasant distraction. I’ve even done a little genre-hopping with my stories. Writing short fiction has also boosted my writing confidence and given me a better understanding of story structure (which is the same regardless of length).
- Writing Short Fiction Gives You Credibility.
Okay, I won’t lie—it’s difficult to have a short story accepted for publication and the review process takes a long time, months in fact. But agents and publishers will tell you that winning a short story contest or having a story appear in a reputable publication, beefs up your resume’ (or query) considerably. We’re all looking for credibility and recognition even if we don’t aspire to be traditionally published.
- Writing Short Fiction Pays.
Many literary publications pay thousands of dollars for the short stories they publish (and the copyright almost always reverts to the author). Also, dozens of contests are held each year offering hefty cash prizes for the winners in addition to publication. Then, too your story may be picked up for inclusion in an anthology—another great way to earn money. But hey, if you have a story that is polished and you feel will appeal to the masses (or even just your fan base) you can publish it yourself. Kindle Singles sell for prices ranging between $0.99 and $4.99—or about the same as a full-length book.
If any of this has inspired you to delve further into the opportunities out there for short fiction, you’ll find many helpful articles and books out there to guide you along. Good luck with your writing, and keep an eye out for some of my stories coming soon on Kindle (and elsewhere, I hope!).
I’m the author of the Transcender Trilogy, TRANSCENDER: First-Timer, STREAMING STARS, and the upcoming ILLLUMINOSITY, which blends science-fiction, fantasy, and romance in an exciting cross-dimensional adventure.