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Beginning Writer Tips - The Importance of Short Stories

Many beginning writers jump right into creating fiction by starting a novel. While there’s no one right way to begin your authoring journey, this is the equivalent of learning to swim by jumping into the deep end of the pool. Finishing a novel is a serious time commitment, and the amount of time it takes expands exponentially if you start the journey without much experience.

Some writers overlook short stories because authoring them doesn’t pay very well, but writing short stories provides authors with a number of incredible benefits.

  • Writing a short story requires a much smaller time commitment than writing a novel. That means you are free to experiment with voice, mood, tone, and pacing to your heart’s content. If a technique you try doesn’t work, you haven’t lost months of time. You don’t need to undertake a major rewrite of an ongoing work.

  • Writing short stories helps you develop tools and tricks you can store up in your writer’s bag. I used to have a hard time describing the most mundane of actions that happen in every story. Every time I had to get a character into or out of a scene, I wrote clunky prose to handle it. It took practice to get better at it. Over time I developed some techniques that make such transitions smoother. Short stories give you the chance to practice writing.

  • Submitting short stories helps toughen you up. Rejection is a major part of a writer’s life. Finding the right market for your work, coupled with a publisher that likes your writing style, who has a perfectly sized spot for the piece you submitted, is not easy. Once the basic requirements of a submission have been met, choosing what to reject and what to accept can be a very subjective decision. Even the best writers get rejected. If you can’t handle a piece you worked on for a few days or weeks get rejected, your spirit will be crushed when a novel you’ve spent years on gets rejected. The thing to learn is that rejection is not personal. The key is to take what’s been rejected, see if you can make it any better, and then submit it to another publisher.

  • Getting a short story published is pretty awesome. Short stories offer you the fastest route to becoming a published author. The pay may not be much, but it still counts as a victory. An editor thought your writing was good enough to appear in their publication. That’s real validation that you have talent. It’s not enough to wash away all the self-doubt that authors harbor in their creative brains, but it can be enough to push back the absolutes we sometimes tell ourselves. “I’m not a worthless author. A publication paid me money for something I wrote. At least some of my stuff has value.” Now that value may only be $20, but that’s more value than most people’s fiction will ever be assigned. Being published is a sign that you do have talent, and you should definitely keep going. Next, take on a higher paying short story market.

Getting a few short stories published requires you to earn some valuable writing and editing experience. That experience will make tackling a novel a less daunting, and more fulfilling experience.

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