Some time ago I blogged on the value of short stories to a fiction writer, any fiction writer i.e. they shouldn’t be viewed as some lesser form of the writing craft or inferior. If anything they have to be more focused, tighter than a full length novel. Recently I seem to have come across more collections of short stories, in my genre of science fiction. So perhaps more people are thinking the same. As a reader I find them refreshing. As a writer – read on:
1) Trying out ideas – do they work? Practice your craft
Like all writers I get inspired by reading other people’s works. That doesn’t mean I want to copy their style or subject matter. However, it might suggest something I haven’t tried before – a new subject matter, a different way of looking at what I do. So rather than launching into a novel length project a short story is a great way to see if it works for me. Sometime it might and it does become that next project. Sometimes it might give me a way of writing that I can incorporate into new work. Or it might just suggest that it’s not for me.
2) They can develop into something more
In many ways this follows on from 1) in that in trying out those news ideas, shifts of focus I find they can suggest paths which my writing hasn’t previously explored. The next full length science fiction novels that I want to write originated with two of my short stories. It doesn’t always happen like that of course. In many cases they are complete as they are, but sometimes they spark that bigger idea.
I recently read Five Suns of Treason by the self-publishing author Jim Heskett. This was a post apocalypse story written at first of as a series of short stories that even jumped between before and after the apocalyptic event. It sounds confusing, but it wasn’t. It finished with a novella length piece that brought together all the various strands of the story. I thought this was a great way of using connected short stories to build a larger work.
I see short stories as a good way for people to sample my writing. Some I include on my web site (which reminds me I must add some more). Also one of the things I wanted to do in 2015 is publish some of my short stories which I did in ‘Dancing with the Devil’ – Ten short stories for those who are pressed for time. At the moment these are one sale through Amazon. However, I may also use these as a free promotion (see below).
4) A marketing tool
In a way anything we publish is a marketing tool i.e. the more we publish the more chance there is that readers will find us and hopefully enjoy our work. So for me publishing a collection of short stories is another way of getting myself known to more people, another marketing opportunity.
I have also taken this a step further by publishing a 10,000 word ‘long’ short story or novelette to my new novel. This is now available free on Smashwords and for £0.99/$0.99 on Amazon (For reasons best known to themselves and despite me having told them it is free on Smashwords). The intention here is to promote this heavily when the promotion of my novel formally starts. Perhaps through Facebook ads (see my 2016 resolutions).
5) Flash fiction
I know this is not exactly short story writing, but I enjoy these for the same reasons as short stories – I get to try out new ideas and yes, they have led to longer stories. I used to enter a competition most Fridays for between 150 and 250 words (it varied) inspired by a word and photograph prompt. What this meant for me was 20 minutes or so of creativity away from my ‘big projects’. They were a bit of light relief, a chance to let the imagination run loose. Unfortunately, this has now closed, but it has left me with a large collection of potential ideas. I guess I need to look for another flashfiction outlet.
So that’s five more reasons for writing short stories. I also urge you to read short stories as well. They are a great way to dip your toes into new ideas and forms of writing that you might not otherwise try. What have you got to lose?
As always comments are welcome.