Last week I was disappointed when I learned that May is National Short Story Month. Gee, the month was all but over before I discovered this. We could have spent the whole month talking about a short story, but I missed the opportunity. Maybe next year.
A short story is one category of short-form fiction, generally with a length of 1,000 to 7,000 words. As a person used to writing and editing 1,000-word articles, a 1,000-word short story feels right to me.
Until recently there weren’t many options for writers to publish short stories (or any fiction shorter than a novel, for that matter), but with the advent of e-readers, new opportunities have opened up. With e-readers and self-publishing, the short story has been resuscitated as a viable option for writers.
Short stories can fill many needs for authors:
- Offer a creative outlet
- Supply a way to make some extra cash
- Provide a use for good fiction ideas that aren’t extensive enough to fill a novel-length work
- Flesh out minor characters from a novel, possibly providing backstory that novel fans will devour
- Present content for fans to fill the gap between novel releases
- Fit nicely in a short story anthology
- Be compiled into your own short story collection, something traditional publishers have avoided but is viable when self-publishing.
I primarily write nonfiction, but I dabble in fiction. While I feel confident in my ability to write nonfiction and to discuss writing in general, when it comes to skills unique to fiction, I feel I have so much to learn. Writing short stories is a great place to start. Let me hone my skills on shorter works before diving into longer ones.
If you write mainly fiction, where do short stories fit in? If you primarily write nonfiction, do short stories offer a diversion or perhaps a creative outlet?
Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!