The Power of Short Stories

The first half of January, I find, is often a fallow season.  Everyone is recovering from the frantic pace of holiday season celebrations and reflecting upon the upcoming year.

Even if you don’t believe in new year’s resolutions — and growing research demonstrates that only a tiny fraction of people who set new year resolutions actually sticks with them throughout the year — then you can still put the quiet time to good use, especially if you’re taking vacation days from the day job.


Write short stories.

They can even be flash fiction length, if you want.

Why?  Because writing a handful/a dozen/many/hundreds of short stories (depending on how much time you have) has some great side benefits:

You can be slap-dash with them.

Skip plotting because you can hold the whole story in your head.  Chunk out an entire story in one sitting.  Write by hand.  Write with crayons.  It doesn’t matter, because the stories don’t matter.  They may or may not ever be read by another person, so the pressure is off and you get to have fun.

Write into the dark (no plotting).  Find a collection of writing prompts (there’s hundreds, on-line), throw a virtual dart at them, and write a story from the random prompt.

You can experiment with different genres or sub-genres.

Try them on for size.  See how they fit.  You might just discover a new revenue stream.

You can experiment with different voices, narrators and viewpoints.

Any technique used in a novel is up for grabs when you write short stories.  Try writing one without a single adjective in it.  One in second person objective voice, present tense (harder than you think!).  If you’ve often wanted to seriously try writing in first person, for example, go ahead.

You can teach yourself to write more words per hour

Determine you will write a 5,000 word story in a single morning.  Or three shorts in a day.  Then floor the gas pedal and do it.  These are the equivalent of word sprints — they teach you to get words down faster.

You can recycle the crappy ones

Part of having fun with short story binges include scrapping crap and recycling.  What aspect of that piece of garbage you just finished has potential?  An interesting character?  A brilliant piece of dialogue?  A setting?  Take that one aspect and build a different story around it.

You can develop a series using short stories

Write a short story featuring your new series character, exploring their history, or putting them in a typical situation that might happen in your series.  You can develop unique character voices, and facets of character.  Explore settings, character interactions and more.  Short stories are great for world-building, and when you’re done, you now have reader magnets to offer readers at the back of the actual books in the series.

Remember to write loose and easy, though, and have fun.  Don’t get caught up in the “readers will see this” mentality.

You will keep your creative synapses firing

If creativity is a muscle, then the new and different workout will keep it flexible.

Short Stories teach you to write tightly and economically

Short story structure is not a condensed novel.  It’s a different technique altogether, but writing short stories will make your novel-writing lean and clean, and tighten up your pace.  Both are positives in today’s fiction industry.

Short story binges produce saleable work

Write enough short stories and you’ll start writing good, saleable ones without trying.  You can publish them yourself, as stand-alones, in collections, in collections with other authors as anthologies that get the boost of coop marketing.  You can use them as marketing trinkets in dozens of ways.  You can also sell them (depending on your genre) to fiction magazines both on-line and not, and extend your author platform…and sales.


There’s really no downside to writing short stories.  On top of everything I’ve already mentioned, a short story binge will teach you to enjoy writing for the sake of it–or remind you of that joy.

That sense of fun and the immersive reverie that comes with it can carry over into your “serious” writing, adding a sparkle to every writing session.


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