One thing I often hear from new writers is that they are having trouble finishing their first novel. I can completely understand why that would be a common problem. It’s a daunting and scary task to write 50-100K for a new writer, especially if it’s the first thing he or she has ever written.
When this comes up, I usually encourage them to take a break and write a short story. Even if you hope to eventually build a career writing novels, I’d argue that writing short stories will benefit your writing career.
1. Opportunity to try new things
Let’s face it. You can’t write a novel in a week. A lot of us can’t write a novel in a year. Once you choose your setting, create a few characters and conflicts, outline a bit and get a few thousand words in, you pretty much have to stick with the plan. You can twist the plot, kill some characters, change the narrators, but in the end, that novel maintains its original form.
Short stories are different. You CAN write a short story in a week. Or a flash piece in an afternoon. You won’t spend months working on a short story, only to decide you don’t like where it’s going and ultimately want to toss it out.
With a short story, you have more freedom to experiment and try new things. If you end up abandoning the project, you might lose a few hours, maybe even a day or two, but not the months you might have invested into a novel.
2. Learn to accept rejections
One thing you need to remember is that when it comes to writing, rejection letters are not a bad thing. You HAVE to accept this fact. You have to learn to see rejections for what they really are: feedback.
When you are in the process of submitting short stories, you’ll build up a huge stack of rejection letters. This will help you discover your strengths and weakness as you figure out what works and doesn’t work.
If the first thing you ever write is a 60,000 word novel, you’re going to start the querying/submission process at a greater disadvantage than someone who has been submitting short stories to open markets for a few years and has gained some experience querying.
3. Build some publishing credits
You are your greatest asset. If an agent or publisher is interested in your query letter, they will Google your name. While your previous credentials most likely won’t affect whether an agent represents you or an editor buys your manuscript, they might increase the chances of getting your novel read.
If you can show that you have written a number of quality short stories, it tells potential agents and editors that you are a serious writer who can finish a story and are familiar with some of the basic elements of writing fiction.
So go do it!
I only listed three reasons here, but I’m sure there are a dozen more reasons you should be writing short stories. If you are a new writer working on that “great American novel” go ahead and take a break. Start a few short stories and see where they take you. Hell, you can even send them my way if you think they’re good enough for publication.
And if there are some other reasons we should be writing short stories, leave a comment and let me know!