You're a writer. But do you write short stories? And is there any reason why you should write short stories?
“Writer” is an extremely broad term; after all, there are dozens of genres in which you might write. Poetry, novels, memoir, historical fiction, picture books, cookbooks, instruction manuals, fan-fiction, all of these barely scratch the surface of what you can do with your talents. No matter what you write, though, there are significant benefits to writing short stories that will help you learn and grow within your craft.
5 Reasons Why You Should Write Short Stories
If you’re a novelist or someone who focuses on longer works of writing, short stories may seem strangely daunting to you. I know I’ve definitely felt restricted at times when it comes to how much space I had to tell a story.
But trust me, there are so many ways that writing a short story can help you as a writer. Here are just five benefits.
1. It keeps you in a regular writing habit
It can be so much easier to sit down at your desk knowing you only have to write a little bit of a short piece than it might be if you were faced with the daunting task of continuing a 300-page novel. No matter how much—or how little—progress you make, progress is progress. As long as you’re getting your butt in the chair and typing away, you’re strengthening those creative muscles.
2. You finish more projects
The curse of most writers is having all of those half-finished, abandoned projects taunting you from the edges of your mind. Sometimes you might return to a project to finish it, often times only to abandon it again. This is especially common of longer works, like novels.
With short stories, though, it’s an easy practice in learning how to finish a draft, and then later on in how to revise it. Plus, finished projects are great for contest submissions! You can’t exactly win a contest or be in a publication with an uncompleted draft.
3. The stakes are low
If you do decide to trash a piece you’ve been working on, with a short story, you haven’t thrown out all that much. It can be disheartening to leave a story behind and feel like all of that work was for nothing, but don’t be too hard on yourself. Anything you’ve written can only help you learn how you can take on another piece in a more prepared way.
4. It lets you practice storytelling
Of course any form of story is a good practice in storytelling, but short stories are an excellent crash course in every single element of fiction. In just a few thousand words, you have to develop characters, a setting, a plot, dialogue, and polish your prose, along with several other aspects I didn’t even mention.
Once you’ve finished your short story, it’s also an easy piece to reread to figure out which elements of storytelling you might need to brush up on. By glancing at a few pages, you can pinpoint which parts are the weakest and why.
5. It eases you back into writing
If you’ve gone through an especially bad bout of writer’s block, you may not feel like going back to your creative work at all. Getting back in the saddle after an extended break is one of the hardest things you do as an artist. But short stories are a good way to do that.
Listen to some advice from Anne Lamott and take things “bird by bird.” Short stories are a gentle way to ease yourself back into writing. By the time you start one, it’ll be over before you know it. And once you’ve tackled one story, the rest will come so much more easily.
Other Short Forms
Though I focused on why you should write short stories here, I should also mention that short pieces of any kind can be beneficial to you: flash-fiction, articles, poems, anything that only lasts for a few pages. All of those apply, as well. What matters if that you’re writing, anything, that lets you continue to practice.
What has writing short stories done to help you as a writer? Let us know in the comments.
For fifteen minutes, write the beginning of a short story. It can be about anyone, set anywhere, so long as you commit to those fifteen minutes of writing. You have no obligation to keep your work afterwards, but this is a good way to practice writing for writing’s sake, as well as the various elements of storytelling.
When you’re finished, share your work in the comments, if you’d like. Don’t forget to give your fellow writers some love, too. Have fun!