Writerly Advice: The Benefits of Writing Short Stories

Several November’s ago, I embarked on a grand adventure.  I had an idea for an amazing story, and when I learned what NaNoWriMo was all about, I had to jump in with both feet.  Thirty days later, I had a complete (rough!) first draft of a novel.  Between the thrill of having the idea for the novel and the exhileration of completing it, I knew I had tapped into a part of me that I would never be able to let go of.

Since that time, I have learned a lot about myself and my writing. For one thing, the idea of writing a 50-80 K novel excites me with every glimmer of inspiration I get.

I have learned a lot about time management (even though, let’s face it, it’s tough to balance everything sometimes).  I am now a definite plotter when I can, or care to be, and I have mastered the art of productive pantsing.  Yes, I love the process of creating a full length novel.

But something affected me recently.  I was asked by a writer friend to do a beta read of one of his short stories for a competition.  I will freely admit that short stories have never been something that I would choose to read.  But something in the way that a diminutive word can convey a full story, beginning-middle-and end, enlightened something in me.

Around the same time as this enlightenment, a short story submission announcement showed up in my inbox.  So, I did the only thing I could.  I dusted off an old story idea which had been tucked away somewhere in my laptop, waiting for its day in the sun.  I looked at the strange words I had written about it, and then freaked out a little.

But with the help of a couple of my writer friends, who I consider “Short Story Enthusiasts”, I managed to transform a focus-less plot into a short story that I am proud of.

Working on this short story has taught me several things.

  1. I don’t need a multitude of chapters to tell a good, complete story.
  2. The small word count allotted for a short story makes me use much better words.  I have to be very picky!
  3. There is nothing to fear about pacing a short story plot.
  4. I don’t need to devote hundreds of words to backstory when I can use more effective word-choices to infer the same information.
  5. I have learned to be far less “tell-y”, because there simply isn’t time in a short story.

I still love writing novels.  I love how they are constructed, and I love how a novel paces out the plot over time, allowing me to live with the characters for a while.  But having worked on this short story, I have better perspective as a writer.  The techniques of using language in a concise, descriptive way can only help me as a novelist.

Readers, I am curious.  How many of you novelists have delved into the realm of the short story?  How does writing short stories impact your novel writing?

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6 comments on “Writerly Advice: The Benefits of Writing Short Stories

  1. I rarely write short stories but I really should do it more. Sometimes I try to see my novel in tiny pieces like short stories so I slow down and focus on each one.

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  2. Oliver Shiny says:

    I love writing short stories. It always feels good to get to the end of something, and short stories are obviously easier to finish.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. joylennick says:

    Hi! A very interesting article. Although I have written and had published, five books, I also love writing short stories. Being a totally, helplessly, besotted scribbler of words anyway – in whatever form – they fulfil the need while the next novel is marinating. I now have several, so am thinking of uniting them in a book, although quite a few have found their way into anthologies, specifically by WordPlay (their SHORTS FOR AUTUMN won the 2012 ‘Writing’ magazine’s top award in the UK for the best writing circle anthology!). It is a good feeling penning a tale which you know you can complete in a relatively short time when compared to the more protracted period a novel takes, and – as you mentioned – it makes you really concentrate on the quality of each word. Let’s hear it for the short story! Best wishes in your writing . I often read your good advice and worthy words..

    Liked by 1 person

    • smnystoriak says:

      Thank you, Joy, for the kind and inspirational words! How exciting about your WordPlay stuff! It is so true about the quality of each word. As always, thank you for stopping by my blog! I am glad you find the information interesting and value-filled.

      Like

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