Though I can probably make this list go on and on, let's start with my top 5 reasons why you should consider writing more short stories.
Lately, I've been a bit obsessed with short stories.
Editing and re-writing them.
At the time this is posted, I've written a dozen short stories and uncovered twice as many things about myself as a writer that I didn't see as clearly before. Well, that's not true. Things are just skewed differently in longer-form stories. The patterns emerge slower, therefore I grow slower as a writer.
For example, I never realized that I overuse the word "just" in my novel-length projects, but do you know easy it was to spot in a short story? Yea, it's something that would have come up in line edits without a doubt, but once I was aware of my overuse of the word in a span of 4,000 words I started being more intentional with its use.
Short story writing used to be a form of writing that intimidated me when I first dove back into writing seriously. As the reader, short stories are these magical bites of something that feels carefully crafted and part of something bigger. In their limited word count, short stories are still whole stories and when done well, the reader walks away as satisfied as the writer does.
Short stories are basically the perfect literary snack, leaving you full and with only the faintest itch in your teeth for more.
Short story writing has a lot to offer writers who indulge frequently in writing them and I have 5 personal favorites that, if I'd known about sooner, I'd probably have improved my writing a lot quicker.
Easily my favorite thing about writing short stories is the FREEDOM.
While my usual projects are urban fantasy adventure-esque, short stories gave me back a part of my creativity that I forgot to nurture -- writing for fun. It's easy to get wrapped up in writing your favorite genre or whatever it is you're most drawn to, and that's fine. We write because we love to write whatever that thing is. Though sometimes, it can unknowingly create a creative tunnel vision and we forget to work out the other parts of our creative energy every now and again.
It's like when those particular guys pretend leg day and stretching aren't as important as long as they can lift heavy things, so their legs are tiny and they can't clap their hands because their muscles are both too big and too stiff.
Writing in one genre can be the same way on the creative muscle. Short stories offer open opportunities and the minor commitment of your time to explore whatever you want in your writing without any consequences.
Instead of testing out new outlining methods, genre ideas outside of your writing norm, or trying to discover who your character is along the way as you write a 50,000-word novel -- write a short story.
The most you'll lose is a few hours and even if you don't do anything with the story, even if you trash it after a read-through, you'd still have learned more about your writing than if you just attempted another manuscript that ends up in the half-finished pile.
So, if you usually write romance and you're thinking of branching into urban fantasy, write a short story.
You usually write romance but you have an idea for a mystery thriller? Write a short story.
You've never written middle grade before but you have an idea? Write a short story.
Your favorite show fucked up and Bonnie should have been treated better than dating her best friend's little brother and a vampire that died on her? Write a short story.
Some moons ago, I talked about some ways to improve your writing skills and one of my tips was intentional practice.
As an urban fantasy writer, I know that one expectation of my genre is a romance sub-plot of some sort. As steamy and important, or cold and unimportant as I want it to be, but regardless the readers are expecting romance of some sort alongside the adventure.
One way I've been able to decide what that romance sub-plot should look like is using short stories. Writing short romance stories over the last few weeks has helped me hone what kind of relationship dynamic and what kind of romantic sub-plot would work best for my characters.
Short stories are easy opportunities to flex specific muscles and work out isolated parts of your creativity which ultimately helps you improve faster.
Intentional practice is as easy as writing a short story based on a writing weak point you want to improve. For example, if you often get comments back from CP's or betas of white room syndrome, write some short stories focused on describing settings. Similarly, if you struggle with dialogue, you can practice by writing a whole short story that's only made up of a conversation.
Strengthening your weak points in short form means you're working your way toward cleaner manuscripts, and practicing those weak points intentionally, strengthens them that much faster.
The Creative Quickie
Let's face it. If you spend a lot of time working on long novels, and epics, and series -- you're not getting off on the creative finish as often as you deserve.
Short stories are just that -- short. Depending on how fast you write and what your writing schedule looks like, short stories start and finish in a span of a few hours, and for better or worse -- it always feels good to finish something from scratch without having to run yourself into the ground for months to get it done.
Finishing a piece is a creative high you carry into the next work. It makes you want to ride the high and again and again and each time you get a finished story and... around and around it goes.
Short stories are the quick and easy way to reach the big finish of a creative project and ride it into the next. They also double as a way to get through writers' block because nothing gets you going like getting off the high of a finished piece.
It's a lot easier to see what's working and what's not working in a story when there's limited room for fluff and filler.
Before writing more short stories, I always knew that I was someone who needed to edit as I go, but it can feel overwhelming when I'm facing a novel-length work every single time which makes me avoid editing while I go at all which just lands me with another unfinished project.
Short stories have reminded me, among other things, that editing as I go is an essential part of my writing process I can't keep putting off. It's also helped me hone my editing process for my own work which is improving my overall process for my clients' work.
Frequent self-editing is going to help you identify your writing quirks -- like my thing with the word 'just'- and better point out your writing weak points. You can then intentionally practice with other short stories and continue to improve through self-editing... You see the cycle here, right?
The easier it is to identify patterns, and weak points in your writing, the more you're going to learn how to hone in on what's working and what's not working. More importantly, you're going to start learning the different ways to improve and nurture your weak points into strengths.
Alright, here is where I confess something I hope is obvious and relatable: I haven't always had a great writing habit or discipline, and sometimes I fall off of the one I've built.
Habits are hard, writing is hard, and building a writing habit that doesn't always feel like pulling your own teeth can feel harder. Short stories provide an easy goal, give you a finished and satisfying feeling, and it's hard not to want to do it again.
If you write 50 words a day for seven days, you can have a short story by the end of the week along with the start of a daily writing habit that you can repeat and build on infinitely. It also helps that the more often you're finishing stories, the more likely you are to able to go on to finish longer pieces.
I don't think I have to mention that the more you write, the better you get, and the better you get, the more you're going to want to write, and so on and so forth.
So let me know, Do you write short stories? Do you have a favorite short story you've written or have read that's inspired you?