Why Writing Short Stories
Readers have shorter attention spans these days and consume the written word in radically different ways: With smartphones, tablets, and netbooks, readers are more gravitating towards shorter pieces. With all the distractions from other, flashier forms of entertainment it can be a struggle to set aside an hour or two and a find a quiet spot to read a book. Short stories can be read in 20 minutes- while enjoying lunch break, riding the bus or standing in a queue.
Writing short stories before switching to lengthy novels seem to be natural. However, the craft of short fiction cannot help an author – this is an underlying prejudice held by others who see short stories as a minor league. Real authors write novels. Well, short stories are novels too – or at least novelettes. Famous bestselling authors, such as Stephen King or Ray Bradbury are proofing it.
If you want to get a professional author platform and recognition by agents, publishers, and reviewers then placing stories in respected literary journals will help you tremendously.
Short Stories are Training for Your 300-page Novels
Short stories are great for writing practice. Several short stories can be a great exercise or preparation for your full-lengths novel. Short stories, related to your upcoming novel, can be published as a prequel to offer something to read until your next book launches. Prequels promote your future book through short stories. They can serve as a gateway to your novels.
Most Writing Contests Want Short Stories
Writing contests are a great way for both, beginners and seasoned authors to get noticed. A well-known writing prize contest can really make your portfolio stand out. For most authors, it’s scary to show their work to the world. But you have to bite the bullet, so you might as well do it for a cash prize!
Print collections of short stories are also a fantastic way for newer authors to break into the market, for example through the Chicken Soup series or the Best American Short Stories. Find submission info at Duotrope duotrope.com and Writer’s Relief writersrelief.com, or at the websites listed below.
Consider These Tips:
Kurt Vonnegut’s short-story-writing advice to writers:
“For every rule (well, almost every rule) there is an exception. The greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O’Connor,” writes Vonnegut. She broke practically every one of my rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that.”
“Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water. Each sentence must do one of two things–reveal character or advance the action. Give your readers as much information as possible – as soon as possible. To heck with suspense.”
What makes short stories different from novels is that there has to be one strong, obviously “main” topic to the short story, everything else needs to be only hinted. The most important part of short story writing is editing. No matter how good you think your story is, it can be shorter, tighter, more compelling. Learn to strip the fat relentlessly, hunt out and kill repetition of words, make every sentence sing. And look for repetition in words – when you have so few to work with, repeated words really stand out.
Benefits of Writing Short Stories:
- Small, portable screens are changing the way we read. The iPhone has made people a lot more open to reading short stories. They can be read in one sitting and are downloadable.
- Editors at small magazines often have connections in the publishing world.
- The more titles you have in online bookstores, the more visible writers are.
- Most writers can’t turn out more than two books a year, but they can write and publish short stories and novellas in between.
- A prize, a short-listing or even honorable mention looks great in a query or bio.
- Some of the biggest awards in literature are still for short fiction, sometimes offering a prize as high as $6,000 to $12,000.
- Shorts keep readers interested while they’re waiting for your next novel. Even a free very short story (2,000 words) in between is a great marketing tool. Consider writing several short stories about your main characters while you’re working on the novel and use them as prequels
- Kindle Singles often sell for the same price as a novel-length e-book. Some large magazines still publish short fiction.
- Most literary journals are available online, with larger readerships and you don’t have to subscribe to find out what the editors want.
- Include the right keywords in your content, and people will find these short stories and articles in search engines.
Amazon’s Kindle Singles
Amazon’s Kindle Singles program—which publishes works of fiction or creative nonfiction of 5,000 (better 10,000) to 30,000 words—it sold more than 2 million short titles in 14 months. Today, it’s further promoting short fiction with a Short Reads section—where customers can choose stories from the Singles library by the length of time required to read them—and Day One magazine, which showcases short fiction from new authors.
A prominent author of these Kindle Singles is Stephen King, with his Single “Mile 81” a top seller. So, instead of submitting your work to reader forums or our blog, you can sell those articles to the internet giant Amazon website and receive 70% royalties, even for Singles priced under Dollar 2.99. To be precise for Singles priced between 99 cents and $4.99.
Other Criteria’s at Amazon are:
- Original work, not previously published in other formats or publications
- Self-contained work, not chapters excerpted from a longer work
- Not published on any public website in its entirety
- But they are currently not accepting how-to manuals, public domain works, reference books, travel guides, or children’s books!!!
Amazon’s Submission Policy
“A Kindle Single can be on any topic. So far we’ve posted fiction, essays, memoirs, reporting, personal narratives, and profiles, and we’re expanding our selection every week. We’re looking for high-quality writing, fresh and original ideas, and well-executed stories in all genres and subjects. We will consider e-books recently published via Kindle Direct Publishing, manuscript submissions, or pitches.”
Where to submit short stories – other than as Kindle Singles?
Authors who are aiming to make a living from their short stories or supplement their income have to find markets at magazines, on Dueotrope or offer their books to Amazon for inclusion into “Kindle Shorts“. Stories between 3,000 and 5,000 words are most marketable, however, there is demand for all lengths.
Most of the writing competitions take place every year. If the deadline for this year’s contest is expired, mark your calendar for next year’s contest. However, there are many more opportunities, such as top literary magazines, newspapers and hundreds of niche magazines where writers can submit fiction and non-fiction short pieces. These pieces are often not only handsomely paid, but also given additional exposure to a large new audience. Never give your work away for free – except in particularly worthwhile places, such as a charity.
These links are just a few examples of several hundred more that readers of our next self-publishing guidebook can expect: How to Make (More) Money With Writing – launch in late March.