Monday, April 19, 2010

Benefits of Writing Short

I’ve heard people say writing a short story is hard. For me, it’s the novel that is hard to write. I’ve written flash fiction stories (under 1000 words) up to the novella (between 20,000 and 40,000 words). I’m still working at ‘torturing’ my characters enough for a novel.

A short story is very compact. The focus is on your hero and heroine (in a romance) and their relationship. There is little room for backstory, extensive worldbuilding, or subplots. But it is a good medium for beginners because you can hone your craft. Knowing your characters, whose point of view to use in a scene, even developing sexual tension takes practice and writing a short story is good practice.

Here are some tricks to help keep your story short:

Give your main characters a prior history – It’s easier to get their relationship going if your characters already have knowledge of each other. Reunion stories are popular.

Keep your minor characters low in number – You’ll be focusing on the main characters. Minor characters are needed but have too many and you’ll overwhelm the reader. I’d recommend no more than 20 (less for really short stories); although in a longer novella you can probably fit in a few more.

Use a single setting (maybe two) – You don’t want to use valuable words describing new cities/villages, homes, or terrains. A few specific details can ground your reader quickly in one spot. You can also focus more on your characters emotional growth if you’re not constantly adding new external experiences.

As with anything writing related, these are just suggestions. You can take what works for you and apply it, while ignoring all the rest.

While writing a short story may prove difficult, there are good reasons for beginning and established authors to create them. You can build credentials in magazine and epublishing markets. Readers enjoy free reads and presenting them with a short story a chapter a month could grow your following. Having a story in an anthology, particularly with a Best Selling Author, could showcase your work to a new reader base. Every little bit helps when trying to expand your readership.


  1. Good ideas! I especially like your first one, and I use that a lot, even in shorter full-length stuff (50,000 words or so).

  2. Thanks Sonja. I like reunion stories. I'm kinda playing with that in my fantasy WIP.