For most of my creative writing life, I’ve tried to write novels. Novels are the pinnacle of fiction writing in the same way oil painting is the pinnacle of art. I thought that if I was going to be a writer, I didn’t have a choice but to write novels.

However, in the last six months, my thoughts have changed. I’ve locked my novel away in my desk drawer to focus all my attention on short stories.

Here are four reasons why I chose to write short stories instead of novels:

Underwood Typewriter

I want this typewriter. Photo by Xlibber

1. The Best Writers Started with Short Stories.

Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway, and Mark Twain became famous writing novels, but before they wrote novels, they published short stories.

Ernest Hemingway wrote twenty-four stories about a single character, Nick Adams, writing most of them before his breakout novel, The Sun Also Rises. Twenty-one years before The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain published his first short stories in a local newspaper. Stephen King started submitting short stories at such a young age that by the time he was fourteen he had a stack of rejection letters so thick he could no longer nail it to the wall.

If you want to be a great writer, you should consider writing short stories. The best of the best did.

2. They’re Practice.

You know how I feel about practice.

Short stories give you the chance to write a full length story from beginning to end. You can practice every part of the writing process, and you can do it in a matter of weeks. If you write a novel, it could take years to practice the whole process. And if it’s your first novel, after all that hard work it probably won’t be published.

Short stories are a training ground, the place where you can make all your mistakes before you jump into the much more difficult process of novel-writing.

3. You Need to Publish Something Sooner.

And by that I mean you need to get your work out of the dark closet of your computer screen and into people’s hands as soon as you can. Feedback is the fastest way to improve.

Why?

Because you need people to tell you how bad it is. Or how amazing it is. Or how good that one paragraph is, especially compared to how bad the rest of the manuscript is.

When I finished my last short story, I sent it to over twenty people, and the feedback I got from them made me completely change the feel of the whole story.

That’s why we practice in the comments section and not on our own. We all need feedback, whether we’re Stephen King or Joe Bunting.

4. Because You Have Stories to Tell.

You should write short stories so you can experience the taut tightrope walk of the moment, the inexhaustible richness of the present. You should write short stories so your children can read them when they’re your age and think, “Wow. My father, my mother was a writer.” You should write short stories because you’re consuming stories everyday, from books and television and movies and newspapers, because you want to stop consuming and start creating. You should write short stories to discover what your life is for and why you’re here and what you’re supposed to do.

You should write short stories because you are a writer, and you have stories to tell.

Two Things

My New Book: Next week, I’m publishing a new ebook about writing short stories called Let’s Write a Short Story! It’s about how to write a publish short stories of your own. Here’s the thing, I want to keep the price as low as I can so that as many people as possible can get it, but the prices won’t last.

I recommend signing up for the newsletter at letswriteashortstory.com so you can find out exactly when the book is launched, and when the price increases. If you have a minute, go sign up now.

Get a YOUR Copy: Second, I’m giving away a free copy of the book to a limited number of people who are willing to write a review on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. If you’d like to volunteer, email me at joebunting@thewritepractice.com. Hurry, though, because this offer is going away very soon.

UPDATE: This offer has been discontinued, but Let’s Write a Short Story! is now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and from letswriteashortstory.com. Check it out. You’ll like it. I promise.

That’s all. Have a great Friday!

PRACTICE

As you’re thinking about short stories, I want you to free write. Don’t try to write any particular story. Relax. Just let your story shape on its own.

Write for fifteen minutes. When you’re finished, post your practice in the comments section.

And if you post, be sure to give feedback to a few other writers.