Sunday, May 3, 2015

13 Reasons Why You Should Write a Short Story This Month

by Anne R. Allen

Mashable reported this week that the buzzword of the moment is "snackable content"—described as "bite-sized chunks of info that can be quickly 'consumed' by its audience."

That's why short fiction is hot. Ditto creative nonfiction essays. But the word hasn't reached all writers. Recently I saw a newbie writer ask for help in a writing forum because his work kept coming in at around 40 pages—like that was a bad thing.

But he based his worries on some very out-of-date information.

It's true that short stories (up to 30K words) and novellas (30k-50K words) dipped in prestige after the demise of the fiction market in mainstream magazines two decades ago, but they have come back—maybe stronger than ever—with the ebook revolution. (Those word counts are from Writer's Digest. Some people use the term "novelette" to mean a story in the 10K to 30K range.)

A novella is no longer an unfinished, failed novel that needs "fleshing out." It's a cash cow. Indie authors like Elizabeth Ann West are building fabulous careers writing novellas that sell for more than most full length novels. For more on the novella, see Paul Alan Fahey's post Why Novellas are Hot and How to Write One. Paul's step-by-step guide, using screenplay techniques, is pure gold.

With Kindle Unlimited, the books that are the most lucrative are shorter books in a series. Novella writers are cleaning up.

And all shorter fiction is having a renaissance in the digital age. In fact, right now may be the new golden age of the short story.

The New York Times reports: "Stories are perfect for the digital age...because readers want to connect and want that connection to be intense and to move on. That is, after all, what a short story is all about."

Book marketing guru Penny Sansevieri said in the HuffPo: "short is the new long. Thanks to consumers who want quick bites of information and things like Kindle Singles, consumers love short."

EBook Bargains UK reported in April that "Amazon’s Kindle Singles and B&N’s Nook Snaps have already proven the demand for short digital material, and Vintage/Anchor see a lot of potential to engage readers with shorter offerings." Vintage/Anchor books (an division of Penguin-Random) are releasing a vintage short story a day during May.

So it's definitely time for fiction writers to start re-thinking the shorter forms. I wish that during the early part of my career when I was writing and rewriting my "practice novels" I'd been building an inventory of short pieces. They'd be a gold mine now.

1) Novels are so last century.

Most people talk about the novel as if it is somehow superior to other forms of fiction, but it's a relatively new art form. It was perfect for the age of Gutenberg, but it may not dominate the market in the digital age.

Cervantes is generally credited with inventing the novel with the 1605 publication of Don Quixote, but the form didn't make it into English until a century later—and for a long time it had to masquerade as "history" as Defoe's Robinson Crusoe did in 1719. Non-factual narratives were considered frivolous and time-wasting even into the Victorian era.

It wasn't until the 20th century that the novel finally surpassed the play as the most respected form of fictional artistic expression in English.

And even some of our most revered novels are actually novellas, like A Christmas Carol and The Great Gatsby.

So who knows what will happen in the 21st century? The times they are a-changing, especially in the publishing business. The popularity the novella, short story, short creative essay, and the serial novel is on the upswing.

Just this week, the Washington Post published a plea to bring back the serialized novel from Hillary Kelly. Kelly said that while "consumers gladly gobble up other media in segments — whether it’s a “Walking Dead” episode...or a public-radio show", they are moving away from novels, which have become "bulks to trudge through or badges of honor to pin to pedants’ chests."

2) Smaller screens and shorter attention spans are changing the way we read.

We're a multi-tasking world. As bestselling short story writer Amber Dermont told the New York Times: "The single-serving quality of a short narrative is the perfect art form for the digital age…Stories are models of concision, can be read in one sitting, and are infinitely downloadable and easily consumed on screens."

When the Kindle Singles program launched in 2011, they sold 2 million "singles" ebooks in the first year. And you don't have to be accepted into the highly competitive Kindle Singles program to publish stand-alone stories as ebooks.

Many indies are doing it too—and agents are assisting their clients in self-publishing shorts that fill the gaps between novels. Fuse Literary has its own imprint "Short Fuse" that specializes in publishing short pieces for their clients.

The industry has figured out that the e-reader has ushered in a new kind of reading that favors brevity. More on that in my post on the 21st Century Reader.

3) Shorter works make great audiobooks. 

Audiobooks are one of the big growth areas of publishing, according the Wall Street Journal. People especially love to listen to audiobooks while driving. Short stories are perfect for that daily commute. 

And they're not such a big financial investment, so customers can pick and choose narrators and authors.

And if you're looking for narrators to share royalties, I can say from experience that most narrators prefer short works. When I put Why Grandma Bought that Car on Audible asking for narrators, I had 12 actors send me demos within the first two hours.

4) The success of serial fiction like Hugh Howey’s Wool

Indies have been producing serials for some time, and the trads may finally hop on the bandwagon. Hugh Howey made history (and a nice chunk of change) by self-publishing his sci-fi novel Wool as serial four years ago. It began as a short story, and as he wrote more episodes, he published each one separately. Later he put that first episode—a stand-alone that’s also a teaser—perma-free on Amazon. The fans ate up the succeeding chapters, offered at 99c each.

As a result of his early "snackable content", Howey is now a superstar with a top agent, a Big 5 publisher, and a movie deal.

And it all started with a short story.

I know many writers who are now serializing their work for free on  Wattpad, which is a great place to showcase short fiction and get new fans.

Note: not every author can do what Howey did. I know some writers have had negative feedback when they sold each chapter for 99c, since so many full length books can be bought for that price these days.

So make sure each installment gives value—I'd say at least 10K-20K words, maybe divided into chapter-lets. Some novels lend themselves to serialization and some don't. You want each installment to work as a stand-alone story arc with resolution as well a cliffhanger to keep the reader coming back.

5) Story anthologies are a great way to get your work in front of fans of more established authors in your genre

Short story and personal-essay anthologies are one of the best ways to increase your visibility.

Often these anthologies donate proceeds to charity, so there are no royalties, but don't let that put you off. If you can get a story into an anthology with some well-known authors in your genre, you’ll be paid in publicity that would be hard to buy at any price. All those authors' fans will be exposed to your work. For more on anthologies check my post on how to tell a good anthology from a scam.

Anthologies offer one of the best ways for an unpublished writer to break into the business. Many successful authors I network with were first published by the Literary Lab anthologies, and the Indie Chicks Anthology which gave me a leg up when I was re-starting my career.

Another plus for anthologies: some of the biggies, like the Chicken Soup series, also come out in print and are stocked in bookstores. Those anthologies can get you noticed by the old-school reader, too.

6) Published stories identify you as a professional.

Your website or blog has much more cred if you've got some publications to link to. And agents will be more likely to look at your pages if you've got publishing credits.

Publishing short fiction is still pretty much the only way to a publishing contract if you write literary fiction. I don't know of a lot of successful literary writers who didn't also publish short stories in places like The New Yorker, The Paris Review, the Atlantic or McSweeneys

But they didn't get the first story they wrote published by The New Yorker. First they had to place dozens in small literary journals—those tiny labors of love that used to cost a ton to produce and often had under a hundred subscribers.

In the old days we often had to pay $25 or more to subscribe to find out what kind of writing they wanted and get the info on how to submit to them. But these days, most literary journals are available online. They have larger readerships and you don’t have to pay a fortune to read them or find out what the editors are looking for.

And if you write genre fiction, you don't have to start your career getting endless rejections from the few ultra-competitive print magazines that still buy short stories, like Women's World, Ellery Queen and Asimov's.

Now there are are lots of genre story online zines. Here's a link to a great list of genre story markets put together by Romance author Cathleen Ross. Writer's Digest has contests exclusively for genre fiction.

7) Indie films are often adaptations of short fiction.

The holy grail of the writing world is to get a film deal. But did you know that short stories are easier to adapt for the screen than full-length novels? Cheaper too. They tend to have fewer crowd scenes and more small interior settings. Cost matters in the growing indie film world.

Just as indies are revolutionizing the publishing industry, they are also the lifeblood of the film industry. While the big studios concentrate on huge comic book spectacles and remakes of old TV shows, the more emotionally rich, award-winning films are coming from small-budget indies.

Some of our most enduring films have come from short stories. Classic films like The Birds; Breakfast at Tiffany's; Don't Look Now; Double Indemnity, Flowers for Algernon all began as short stories—and I’d need a whole post to list the stories of Stephen King and Philip K. Dick that have been made into great films.

8) Online retail sites favor authors with more titles

The more titles you have in an online bookstore, the more visible you are. You can write and publish a lot of shorter titles and have a bigger presence in the marketplace than with one long book.

Most writers can't turn out more than two or three books a year, but they can turn out a lot of short stories and novellas.

And the advent of Kindle Unlimited presents even more incentive to write shorter works. An ebook in the KU program gets a flat-fee payment per title—no matter how long it is. So a 150K-word novel receives the same payment as a 15K novelette. Breaking your book down into serial ebooks makes a lot of sense in that market.

9) Contests raise your profile and can win big bucks

Winning a story contest is a great way to promote yourself as a writer and create visibility for your books. Win a well-known contest and you can crow about it in social media and send press releases to the local newspapers to get some ink in your own hometown.

Story and creative short nonfiction contests are easy to discover and enter in the era of the Interwebz. Hope C. Clark's Funds for Writers , Poets and Writers, and the website Winning Writers are good sources for vetted contests.

And, ahem, we always list a few good ones in the "opportunity alerts" in these posts.

Entering short story contests is also an excellent way to get your career started. A big win for one of your pieces looks great in a query or a bio. Plus you might even win a money prize.

Some of those prizes are bigger than the advances publishers offer on novels these days.

Plus some of the biggest prizes in literature are still for short fiction, like the Pushcart and the O. Henry award. And the venerable "Best of…" anthologies give huge prestige to those included.

10) Shorts keep your fans interested between novel releases

Forward-looking agents are now encouraging their authors to self-publish shorts to fill in the gaps between novels. They especially like shorts that are about characters in your novels. They keep your fans interested while they're waiting for the next book.

Fuse Literary Agency even has their own self-publishing arm for publishing short work by their clients and other agented authors. It's called Short Fuse.

(Note, if your publisher has a non-compete clause, you won't be allowed to do this. Another reason to have a legal professional look over your contract before you sign.)

Consider writing a couple of shorts about your main characters while you're working on the novel. It may get you through a tricky spot in the big work as well as giving you a saleable product for later down the road.

11) Short stories make money and hold their value

In terms of labor, a short story provides a better bottom line than a novel. Not only does it take less time to write and often sells for the same price as a novel in an ebook, but it can be re-purposed many times. Also, as I said in #9, contest prizes for short fiction can be substantial

I have stories that have been published and republished up to six times in litzines and anthologies. And I can always self-publish them again in a collection sometime down the road.

And as I said above, Amazon's new Kindle Unlimited program is perfect for short stories and novellas. Because you get paid the same for a borrow of a book that's 12 pages or 120,000, writing shorter books is much more lucrative. (As I mentioned above, do write in the over-10,000 word range, though, or you'll get some cranky reviews. You might want to collect your previously published stories into short collections like my Why Grandma Bought that Car.)

My Facebook friend Joyce Anne Laird writes mini-mysteries for Women's World Magazine—they're about to publish her 9th. They pay very well and only buy North American Serial Rights for six months. After that, a writer can sell the story again, or box it up in a self-published anthology. (Joyce does caution that you should buy a copy of the magazine to get up to date guidelines, and query via snail mail. They are old-school and very competitive.)

12) Writing short keeps your writing skills honed.

Writing  poetry and short stories keeps your writing from getting flabby and verbose. You can't spend three pages describing the wallpaper in short fiction. You have to learn to sketch with a few broad strokes.

In these days when readers demand "just the good parts" writing, learning to write short can help no matter what your genre.

13) May is Short Story Month

Inspired by April's National Poetry Month, a group of writers supported by the StoryADay writing challenge deemed May to be International Short Story Month. Some people are going all out and writing a story a day. But you don't have to do a NaNo-style marathon to enjoy the festivities.

You can just read a story a day at the Short Story Month site.

I'm offering my own story anthology free for three days in honor of  Short Story Month. (See below.)

Short stories:
  1. Make the perfect intro to a new author's work
  2. Are a great way for readers to get a top-up from their favorite authors between novels,
  3. Are a perfect impulse purchase on a phone or e-reader.
So isn't this the perfect time to write one?

Like any other skill, your ability to create short fiction will atrophy if you don’t use it. I find it a lot harder to write a short story now than I did when I wrote them regularly.

I admit I've always preferred reading and writing longer fiction. Most writers do gravitate to one form or the other. I know my ideas generally spool out in about 70K-80K words. Shorter is harder for me.

The reverse is true for other writers. Some great short story writers have a hard time writing good novels. One of our greatest short story writers, Katherine Anne Porter, only wrote one novel, Ship of Fools, which was more like a tapestry of many short stories woven together without a compelling story arc. Critic Elizabeth Hardwick said it was " too static" in spite of "the flawless execution of the single scenes."

There's nothing wrong with preferring one form over the other. But these days, we need to work on fiction in a variety of lengths. I'm aiming to write some shorter work after I launch the next Camilla mystery.

Do note: I don't encourage newbie writers to self-publish your very first efforts at story-writing. To succeed in publishing—whether indie or traditional—you need to put in your 10,000 Malcolm Gladwell hours. But you can maximize your efforts by spending more of those hours writing short fiction and creative nonfiction shorts.


For tips on how to write a short story, check out Jessica Strawser's post at the Writer's Digest blog.

And next week, we'll have a post from Dr. John Yeoman of the Writer's Village, where he's been teaching writing and judging writing contests for many years. He's going to tell us what to avoid when entering short story contests...and how to be a winner!

What about you, scriveners? Did you get out of the habit of writing short fiction the way I did? Have you written any lately? Have short stories helped your career? 



3 Days only! May 3-5 

"Anne R. Allen’s book of short stories explores womanhood in all seasons. I’ve read this book twice and get something new to appreciate each time. It is the kind of book one returns to periodically, just to revisit characters and stories like old friends that help clarify ages and stages of life and the changing world. Her poems are timely, tying stories together with theme, grace, and humor."
...Mary J. Caffrey

a short book of short stories


Humorous portraits of rebellious women at various stages of their lives. From aging Betty Jo, who feels so invisible she contemplates robbing a bank, to neglected 10-year-old Maude, who turns to a fantasy Elvis for the love she's denied by her patrician family, to a bloodthirsty, Valley-Girl version of Madam Defarge, these women—young and old—are all rebelling against the stereotypes and traditional roles that hold them back. Which is, of course, why Grandma bought that car…

Narrated by C.S. Perryess and Claire Vogel


Golden Quill Awards Writing Contest: Flash, Poetry, and Short fiction categories. Entry fee $20 for stories and poetry, $15 for flash fiction. The theme is TRANSFORMATION. They even have a video on You Tube to inspire you. Deadline July 15. 

MARK TWAIN HUMOR CONTEST  Entry fees: $12 Young Author or $22 Adult. 7,000 words (or fewer) of any original work of humor writing. Submissions must be in English. Submissions are not required to be in the style of Mark Twain or about Mark Twain. 1st Prize: $1,000 (Adult), $600 (Young Author). Other cash prizes! Deadline July 10, 2015

Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Contest. Entry fee $10. Your story should in some way touch upon the publication’s mission: Celebrating America — past, present, and future. Think Norman Rockwell. No profanity or graphic sex. Any genre. No previously published stories, but they can have appeared on your blog. Between 1,500 and 5,000 words. Deadline July 1, 2015

Big Beautiful Wellness Creative Writing Contest. NO FEE Poems up to 30 lines Fiction or Nonfic between 1000 and 2000 words. $100 first prize. Theme: Body-positive living. Looking for inspirational, positive stories. Deadline July 1.

Writer's Village International Short Fiction Contest Prizes totalling $3200! And every entrant gets a critique. (which makes this a great deal.) Any genre of fiction up to 3000 words. Entry fee $24. Deadline June 30th.

PULP LITERATURE'S The Hummingbird Prize for Flash Fiction $10-$15 ENTRY FEE. Winner published in Winter 2016. First Prize: $300 (Runner up: $75). For unpublished short fiction up to 1,000 words in length. Contest Opens May 1, 2015 and closes June 15, 2015.

Ink & Insights 2015 is a writing contest that comes with a detailed critique. Send the first 10,000-words of your book. The entry fee is $35: pricey for a contest, but a fantastic deal for a critique. Each submission is read by four judges who score 18 areas of your novel. This looks like a great opportunity! Over $5,000 cash and prizes. Deadline May 31.

WOW Spring Flash Fiction Contest: Fee $10, or $20 with critique. The critique is a fantastic deal. These quarterly contests are judged by an agent. 750 words.  First prize is $350 plus a $500 publishing package, publication and an interview. 20 prizes in all. Enter early. They only take the first 300 entries. Deadline May 31.

WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS SHORT STORY CONTEST NO FEE! Open to emerging diverse writers from all diverse backgrounds (including, but not limited to, LGBT, people of color, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural and religious minorities) who have not been published in BOOK format in any genre. The winner receives US $1,000 and publication in the "Stories For All Of Us" anthology to be published by Random House. Opens April 27--Deadline May 8.

The Vestal Review is looking for FLASH FICTION. Submissions are accepted February-May for the Vestal Review, the oldest journal devoted exclusively to flash fiction. 500 words or less. Humor is a plus. Pays $$ plus copies.


  1. Anne—Fabulous post! Inspiring, too. Elmore Leonard advised: "take out the boring parts." He was right. His books were short, terse and sold like crazy even in print. The days of tomes like War And Peace and over. No one has the time any more!

    1. Ruth--I think Elmore Leonard's rules for writing were the beginning of the move to shorter, punchier prose. Now that we're surrounded by "content" most of us prefer a speedier read. I hear you about not having the time.

  2. Marvelous as always Anne. I admit I started out with teeth clenched, shaking my head. But then I realized I had already done some of this! I'm a traitor to myself! The epic fantasy guy must hang his head in shame... my full-length novel was something I never envisioned going "bite-sized" until my publisher showed me the way (by hitting me over the head with the idea). The fourth and final installment came out on the 1st, putting over 200k before the readers in novellas. And the sequel will come out in three books as well.
    I can't cotton yet to writing shorter stories, in the sense of walk away to another genre, pick up a different thread. But I'm learning that breaks are necessary and useful, in telling the longer tales I'm committed to. Like a change of modes for the bards of old, the audience needs them as much as we do.
    The only part I laughed out loud at was the one where you advised putting short tales BETWEEN longer stuff. I'd be so happy with one or the other!
    A great list, I'm particularly interested by the smaller magazines. Maybe I should target some for submissions. Thanks!

    1. Wm--You beat Alex J. Cavanaugh this morning. You have to be speedy to do that!

      Actually, epic fantasy lends itself to serializing. If you look at the episodes of Game of Thrones on TV, each one could be seen as a novella. So your publisher is right. And you'll both make more money.

      I'm not the only one suggesting "in between" shorts. Lots of agents are asking their clients to write them. And it's not a new idea. In the 1920s, Dorothy L. Sayers wrote a number of Peter Wimsey short stories to fill in between her novels.

      Can I write them? So far...nope. But I'm trying. :-) Submitting them to magazines is also a great way to extend your readership.

  3. If I continue writing, short stories might be a better solution for me. (Besides, my novels are really short anyway, so I know I am capable.)
    I have greatly enjoyed contributing to four anthologies.
    I know several authors doing serials so good to know those are doing well now.
    Excellent list of reasons! I'm sold.

    1. Alex--"If" you continue writing? Are you thinking of giving it up? Oh, nooooo!

      Short stories might get you going again if you're feeling the novel well is drying up. I hope you have success with them. Glad I convinced you.

    2. I thought CassaStorm was the last and managed to write Dragon. I'm not sure I want to continue, but I think I could manage short stories.

    3. Alex--I'll bet they'll be a big success with your fans.

  4. Thanks again, Anne. I'd add reason #14: Sometimes the spark of a story doesn't grow into a novel -- it chooses a shorter form. It's silly to beat a good spark into submission by insisting on a particular wordcount. "They" are always telling us to write what we know. Your advice is equally valuable - we should know what we write well enough to let it settle into the appropriate length.

    1. CS--I like that: "Know what you write". That's a great motto for a number of reasons. It took me a long time to realize I can't help writing humor. What I write is going to be funny, whether I want it to be or not. And I'm sure it's the same with short or long form writers. Paul Alan Fahey says he can't write anything longer than a novella. Novellas are what he does. Luckily, the marketplace loves them right now.

      And I hear you about "beating that spark into submission". Some ideas are best written short. I've read soooo many nonfic books that should have been a 5-page magazine article.

  5. Anne, I sold 40 short stories before my first novel was published. I'm one of those who love the short story form first. Novels are hard for me, and after nine, they aren't getting easier. I still write a couple of short stories between books, 'for fun'. Luckily, a few Canadian publishers have started novella lines of 15-30,000 words, and that's a super length for mysteries.
    Wonderful post again!

    1. Melodie--Most of the successful trad-pubbed authors I know published a lot of short fiction before they landed an agent. That is great that you can write shorts between books. I'm going to try to do that too.

      Those sound like some smart publishers. Can you give us some names? I don't know of many US publishers looking for novellas yet, although they're very popular with indies.

  6. Plus, if you're indie, you can have four or five short stories of a similar vein and publish them as a collection, in addition to publishing them separately.

    1. Linda--Exactly! That's what I did with Why Grandma Bought that Car.

  7. Great article, Anne. Very on target. Thank you! Sharing with my fans.

  8. An excellent article, Anne - nothing new there - your stuff always gives value for readership. Really inspirational and exciting. Thank you.

  9. I love writing short stories, although I haven't done so in a very long time. Hopefully this summer, I'll be able to.

    I wish the Literary Lab was still around. I actually made it into all 3 anthologies. I liked literary fiction a lot.

    1. Anne--We'll both be working on short fiction this summer on opposite coasts. :-) The Literary Lab was great. Yes. I miss them too. I'm sure those anthologies were a huge amount of work.

  10. Music to my ears: "In fact, right now may be the new golden age of the short story." :-) I love reading short stories. Also, though I don't write fiction, I do like to write it (if that makes sense). I love writing flash and micro fiction. Excited about May being short story month. As an aside, I reread A Christmas Carol every year. To me, it is a book. A "novel". (I know it's not. But it's perfect -- it's as long as it needs to be.)

    1. I meant, fiction is not the genre I normally write but I enjoy writing it. Some people take this very seriously so thought I'd say I just like to play with fiction. ;-)

    2. Sarah--Reading short stories is a fun, summery thing for me--when I want to grab a little relaxation time in the sun. Writing them is hard for me, though.

      I think A Christmas Carol was considered a novel when it was written. So was Gatsby. It was only in the mid-20th century that the line between novel and novella got rigid. My family used to read it aloud every Christmas. Love that book!

  11. I switched to writing nothing but novellas starting this year largely because I've been finding it more and more difficult maintaining novel-length narratives. It's way too tempting to add subplots galore that end up padding my stories unnecessarily. My focus on novellas has been very eye-opening, to say the least, as a great exercise in developing discipline in plotting. On the reading side, I'm rediscovering my love for great books like 'Death in Venice' as well as short story anthologies.

    1. Hayden--You're a trend-setter! The novella is very hot right now.

      Death in Venice is another great book that's technically a novella.

      I love to keep a short story anthology in the car. When I get stuck waiting somewhere, I always have something to read.

  12. Good stuff, Anne! I wrote a novella last year -- my first, to continue my Bennett Sisters series with a shorter piece set in New York (instead of France.) It meant I could have two books out in one year which is hard for me.

    Like you I like to write long too but this novella made itself extant at 35,000 words. I've also written a continuation short story for a series I no longer write. So many possibilities!
    -- Lise McClendon (not anonymous...:-) )

    1. Lise--Novellas are definitely the thing now. Especially since more, shorter books are rewarded by the big retailers. I've got to follow in your footsteps there.

      We don't allow anon comments. It's what we do to screen spammers instead of the CAPTCHA. Thanks for commenting!

  13. Anne, thank you so much for the shout out. I loved writing that column for your blog on novellas. And what great 13 reasons you've provided! All are perfect reasons why short is the new long. I'm sharing. Paul

    1. Paul--That's one of our most popular posts. I think it's at #11 now, and I hope now we can get it to the top ten so it will show on the sidebar. Thanks for sharing!

  14. I, too, have enjoyed some "anthological" success. Though I have yet to see the popular writer in same book pay off, it's still there percolating and brewing. Wonderful info here (as usual).

    1. Dean--Love the word "anthological". And yes, it's always percolating and brewing. You never know when that one bubble will explode in a big way. Thanks!

  15. Great post. I love writing short stories. I have a hard time stretching my stories out for much more than 50,000 (which is why YA works for me). I wrote a novella years ago that I loved but thought...oh well, what do I do with this? You have inspired me to look at again. Thanks! As Always!

    1. Christine--You write amazing stories. Which is why they always win prizes. :-)
      I'm so glad I've inspired you to look at your novella again!

  16. Anne, I love the short story ... both to read and to write. I am memorizing every word of this post. I think I'll copy it and hang it on the bulletin board in front of my computer.

    Thanks for the heads up on so many opportunities :)

    1. Florence--You have a gift for the short form. I hope you'll start publishing some of your fabulous short stories and memoir pieces.

  17. This was such an informative post. I love to read short stories, and I've had some short stories published. I'm working on longer fiction right now, but I still take time out to write flash fiction and traditional-length short stories. I haven't tried a novella yet, although I have one kicking around in my mind. This kinda inspires me.

    1. Elizabeth--You're so smart to continue to write flash and short stories. I fear I've lost those writing muscles. Best of luck with that novella!

  18. Fab post, thanks so much for sharing, Anne! :) xx

  19. Great post, though I do hope that novels stick around too :) I used to be reluctant about writing/reading short stories, but now am enjoying them a lot--they really are great for honing your craft. Revisions are a bit quicker and less drudgery when it's 6k words instead of 60k too!

    1. Jaime--I love novels too. Getting lost in them is one of life's great pleasures. But somehow we never have time for pleasures in the age of robot overlords ;-) Yes, revising a story is a whole lot easier than a novel. Since I've been up to my ears in editing my new novel, I can attest to that!

  20. Although I always wrote novels (unpublished for many years!) my first published work was a short story. Since then I've had over 70 published, some literary, some light, and several of them have been prizewinners in fairly prestigious contests. I have to say that my full length novels have all sold much, much better than my two collections of short stories. Maybe I should publish them separately instead of in collections? Excellent post, Anne, some encouraging ideas! Thanks!

    1. Gerry--I think most of us first break into print with a short story or essay. But oh, my 70 published stories! That's a wonderful accomplishment!

      It's true that story collections don't sell as well as novels at this point. But that may change.

  21. Here's a post from subscriber Nancy McMillan. Apparently Blogger ate her comment. I wish I knew why that happens:

    Anne, Great post, chock full of information and inspiration. Thank you.

    For years I've wondered why short stories aren't more popular, in this day of everyone squeezed for time. Now I'm happy to hear the good news. (I've also wondered why classical music, with its beautiful order and harmony, isn't more popular in this chaotic world. Maybe it will make a comeback, too!)

    I'd add to #7: Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx, originally a short story.

    1. Nancy--Thanks for sending me your comment even though Blogger was so rude. Sorry about that.

      Brokeback Mountain is a great example of a story that became a classic movie. And I agree 100% about the classical music.

      In fact, when I need to totally chill, I make a pot of tea, put on Mozart and catch up on the short stories in my old New Yorker magazines.

  22. I have always been a fan of short stories. I write better shorts than novels. I needed this kick int he butt :)

    1. Dolorah--This is the perfect time for you to get those stories going again! Have fun!

  23. Anne, what an inspiring post about thirteen reasons to write short stories! And as it happens that is my favorite number too. Thank you for offering "Why Grandma Bought That Car" for free as well. Just downloaded it and I'm looking forward to reading it. What intrigued me about the blurb is that you also included a 10-year-old character. :-)

    1. Tracy--Actually I started with 12 reasons, but then I wanted to add the May is Short Story Month. And I thought of my friend Jay Asher's bestseller "13 Reasons Why" (a great book about teen bullying.)

      I'm so glad you downloaded Grandma! I hope you like it!

  24. I can totally see short stories being a "thing" now, what with social media and e-readers. Who has HOURS to sit and read an e-reader? I don't... A few minutes here and there while waiting for appointments maybe. Short stories are easily read in this amount of time.

    Maybe the future shift will be to sell shorts for .99 and full length e-books for a little more (instead of full length e-books shortchanging themselves at .99)

    1. V.L. Reading habits have changed, haven't they? I'm in a group on Google Plus where most of the people say they read on their phones.

      I agree 99c for a story is great. Full-length novels should be higher.

  25. Thanks Anne for this great post. This gives me inspiration to take my writing in a different direction :)
    I tried to get access to your Free book. Clicked the linked and selected Amazon US, even though I don't have a kindle. It did give options for free Kindle app to be used on PC or other devices. When I click on the link sent to my email for downloading it comes up with the Kindle Unlimited page which turns out only allows 30 days free access, then it costs $10 a month :( Would have loved reading your book.

    1. Ann--I'm so glad I inspired you.

      So sorry you had trouble downloading the book! If they're no longer offering a free Kindle app, this is the first I've heard of it. That may just have been an advertisement for KU that you have to click past to get the app. But the app itself should be free. It's KU that costs 10 a month--that's for unlimited books per month.

      But if you send me your email address to my address below, I can send you the book file in Word so you can read it on your PC.

  26. Oooops! I went back and by hit and miss I was able to get it through the "Kindle Cloud" Kindle for PC Library!!! Oh my goodness, I am so way behind with technology. So I will now be able to read it...yippee!

    1. Ann--Great news! Tech is great when it works like it's supposed to, but so often it doesn't. I'm glad it worked this time. And thanks for downloading the book!

  27. Thanks, Anne! A great post - gave many thoughts and ideas!

    1. Katarina--I'm so glad it got your creative juices up and running!

  28. Oddly enough, I've been considering starting a short story series and all of your points are helping me move from thinking about it to doing it. Thanks!

    1. TBM--I'm glad to hear the post gave you a jumpstart! Have fun.

  29. I love shorts! And recently rediscovered my own and started uploading to my Kindle site. They can be great giveaways to introduce readers to your longer works. I also gift them to those who sign on to my email list. I intend to write a few more when I finish my 100,000+ word novel. Thanks for writing this article. I'll share it with my students.

    1. Marianne--I agree. Shorts are great for giveaways, too. Thanks for sharing this with your students!

  30. Anne, great post as always, thanks! But I was shocked to find on the website that self-published authors are barred from listing their (self-published) short stories in their directory because, as the website owner says: "I’m a big fan of self-publishing but for this database I need stories that have been vetted and judged. Ack, I hate myself right now…"

    Ok, he hates himself but he does it all the same. Actually, in my view, he's reflecting the general feeling, the "zeitgast": there's a backlash against self-published authors (and probably rightly so, there's been so much trash self-published, poorly edited, full of typos, badly structured, awful covers etc etc) In fact self-publishing is no longer what it was back in 2009 and 2010 when the Kindle started and e-books sold like pancakes, any e-book, provided it was free or 99 cents...The world has changed, self-publishing is again viewed on par with vanity publishing, for a newbie or emerging writer, it's no longer a viable option!

    1. Claude--I hadn't seen that, but if you've ever judged a story contest, you would have some sympathy with this guy. A whole lot of beginners who could never write a whole novel can slap together a few pages and call it a story. I don't think this is a sign of anything dire.

      I don't see that we're backtracking with self-publishing. A whole lot of great writers self-publish these days, Yes, there are bad ones, but you can weed out the worst with the "look inside" before you buy and bad covers and blurbs can help you click away fast.,

      But this guy is going to be reading 1000s of stories, all with the same format. He's just asking that the stories be vetted by somebody. That will cut down submissions to a more workable level and weed out the really amateurish ones. Most good story collections are of previously published stories. And it's a whole lot easier to get a story published traditionally than a novel.

  31. Thank you for this article, Anne. Like you, I love to write short stories. They've entertained me and taught me so much over the years. In fact, I'm working on yet another one today. Happy short story month!

  32. Leanne--Have fun with your story! I'm working on one too. :-)

  33. Here's a comment that came via email:

    "Wonderful post, overflowing with great insight and info. Hoo-boy, I have lots of short and short-able stories. Hangtown is perfect for segmenting into a 6-part serial. Thanks.

    Steve Figler

    1. Steve--Since I've read your novel Hangtown, I can vouch for that. Since it's really a series of linked stories, it is perfect for serialization!


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