Author Tip: Is Short Story Writing Something You Should Do?
Why Short Stories
You may not have considered short story writing before, but here are some reasons why you should. This article will also tell you how to go about crafting a short story.
Short stories are for everyone. They are fun and easy to read as well as easy to write. Short stories can be read in one or two sittings, they grip the reader’s attention and don’t let go until the end. They are popular. Remember all of those story ideas that just weren’t developed enough for that novel? These are perfect little critters to get you started writing short stories.
Maybe you are a new author just starting out trying to finish up that first great book. Or maybe you’re an experienced author working on a sequel or at best trying to dream one up. As a writer you need to keep busy and stay focused. Writing is a business, unless you truly believe you’ve only have just that one great one in you, you should be working on ways to expand your business of writing. Here are some reasons you should consider short story writing.
You will add more books to your brand.
You will improve your exposure.
You can write them fast.
You will improve your skills as a writer.
You will publish more often and have more books out there for consumers.
You have the potential to reach more people and make more money.
You will experience satisfaction from completing new works.
What Is Short Story Writing All About
What is a Short Story?
A short story can be from 1500 words to 30,000.
How to Develop a Short Story
First, you start with your idea. Now you take the idea and map it out with an outline. Don’t be too serious at first, let the idea guide you.
You develop your short story the same way you do a traditional manuscript. Flesh out your idea with an outline. Start by separating your idea into three acts, the beginning, middle, and end.
Each act has a beginning, middle and end as well. These can be chapters. And each chapter has a beginning and middle and end. These can be scenes. By writing each chapter as it unfolds like the flow of a book, you have the power to keep your story strong and your readers engaged.
If you have trouble setting up your outline, the steps below are ones that I refer to and find helpful.
The First Act:
The hook: the first page in the first chapter catches your reader’s attention and convinces them to read on.
The inciting event: the first event that befalls in your story. This is what kicks everything off. What event starts the ball rolling in your stories plot?
The key event: this is what drags your protagonist into the plot. Your character has to be pulled into the mess. This is where your character becomes officially engaged in your story.
The first plot point: marks the end of the first act and the beginning of the second. This is where everything changes for your character. The first act sets up your characters ‘normal’ world and introduces the important characters, the settings, and describes the stakes. The first plot point should rock that normal world. Everything changes and your protagonist will be forced to start reaching to the new status quo.
The Second Act:
The first half of the second act: Your character is going to spend the first half of the second half of the book in reaction mode. For the next quarter of the book your protagonist will be fighting to keep their head above the water.
The midpoint: Your stories second major plot point. This is where everything changes again. But now your protagonist is prepared due to the last shake-up and is ready to start taking action rather than just reacting. This belongs smack in the middle of your story.
The second half of the second act: After the midpoint your character is going to start going on the offensive. They are no longer willing to let the antagonist simply bring the fight to them. They will start implementing their own plans and throwing off their insecurities. This continues to three-quarters of the way through the book and the beginning of the third act.
The Third Act:
The third plot point: this is your final major plot point that changes everything. Whatever happens here is going to force your character to a low place. They will have to analyze their actions and motivations and get down to the core of their own personal character arch. This is where they will start to identify their own destructive or ineffective mindsets and start rejecting the personal traits that have held them back up until now. Begins at the 75% mark.
The climax: this is what it’s all about. Your climax is where your story finally gets down to business. This is the point of the whole story. This is where the conflict must finally be resolved. Although events will be heating up all the way through the third act, the Climax Proper won’t begin until around the 90% mark. The climactic moment itself won’t hit until the very end, perhaps a scene or two from the end of the book.
The resolution: caps your story with finality. This important scene is the exhale to your climax’s inhale. Here you give readers the opportunity to see how your character will react to the events of the climax. How are they a different person than they were in the beginning? How has the world changed around them? How does their future look from here?
How Short Stories Can Boost Your Writing Career from the Creative Penn
Get into bookstores
Write short stories and publish them with companies who are already producing titles that you can find in bookstores. There are plenty of short story markets that are available at Barnes and Noble. To find them, simply go down to your local shop and ask about them. The assistant will happily direct you toward their magazine rack or anthologies.
Expand your presence on retail sites
Now that bookstores are digital, retail space is infinite. So how do you stand out in an infinite bookstore? By taking up the largest percentage of that bookstore as possible. The more room you take up, the more likely someone is to stumble onto your work.
Short stories can help fill out your presence on retailer websites. While a novel can take upwards of a year to publish from start to finish, short stories can be written, edited, and finished in a much shorter time frame; and with a smaller budget.
By publishing short stories alongside your longer work, you expand your presence on a retailer website, and thus come up more often in searches and on featured pages. This extra traffic will increase sales of your other titles.
Fill in the gaps between novel releases
Novels are hard work. It can take months or sometimes years to get them right. The publishing process might have been majorly simplified by modern tools, but the writing process is still just as arduous as ever.
Short stories, by comparison, are simpler. Not easier, because writing a great short story is still a major challenge. But the process is much simpler. Writing short stories is similar to writing a single scene (or a few scenes) for a novel. Except, you don’t have to pay attention to an over-arching storyline.
Publishing short fiction while working on a novel is a great method to keep your audience reading your stuff and gives you something to promote while you work on your big project.
Experiment with new genres
Short stories are a smaller commitment than a novel. You can write a short story in a new genre in a weekend and file it away if it doesn’t work. If you put the time in required to write a novel in a new genre, you might feel obligated to then publish it and put your full power behind it. That is a huge risk and most authors simply avoid it.
The risk involved with writing and publishing shorts is much lower. It is a medium that is open to experimentation. I find that a lot of writers are pigeon-holed into the genre they write and feel that if they wrote in other genres, they won’t find success. That is simply not true.
If you’ve never explored other genres and other mediums, you don’t know what will work for you. Especially if you haven’t found the success you’ve been looking for, experimentation with short stories is a great way to figure out what your readers want and to then follow it up with a novel.
Expand your universe.
In addition to all of the previously mentioned benefits to writing and publishing short fiction, the most interesting to me is to use short fiction to expand a fictional universe that you’ve already created.
I’m sure there have been tons of scenes that you’ve had to cut because they just didn’t work in your novel. Why not flesh those scenes out as short stories and put them up as companion pieces? Your readers want to know more about your characters. They already love them (or they should, right?). You can skip a lot of the backstory and reward your true fans with extra scenes that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to get.
An astonishingly small number of writers actually do this, less than 1%. You’re working hard to write your stories. Don’t just trash every scene that doesn’t fit. Re-purpose it as a supplemental short. Or write that scene that you’ve always wanted to write as a short and give your readers an extra taste of something different. Who knows, it might catch on and be the influence for you to write a new novel with a market-proven hook.
Short stories are a struggling form of writing when compared to novels. But they don’t have to be. Writers who approach writing short stories from a smarter perspective, one that uses insights from marketing and experience in the industry, can revive the short story. It happens one short at a time.
Michelle Rene Goodhew
Graphic Designer – Illustrator – Author