Lately, even though I mostly write novels, I’ve been playing around with short stories. I’ve been doing this:
- For the challenge of it. It’s fun to shake things up and develop new skills.
- For improving my writing. Condensing a story into just a few pages or paragraphs takes discipline and subtlety, and I’m hoping this close examination of short stories will improve my longer ones.
- For the sake of submission. Is it just me, or are there more contests out there for shorter works? With society’s growing inclination for shorter things, I think it makes sense to learn how to write well in a short space, especially if you want to publish.
When I first decided to write a novel, I didn’t research; I just went for it. I think some of this was because I had been reading novels for so long that I had a sense of confidence and familiarity with the process.
With short stories, I haven’t felt that way, so I’ve done more exploration. One way has been by reading short stories. I most recently became more interested in short stories when I read Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nocturnes, and lately I’ve been reading Flannery O’Connor. I also recently picked up a book of short stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and I’ve also been reading flash fiction collections online.
Another resource for learning about short fiction has been a podcast I listen to — Fiction School. They offered some of the most helpful advice I’ve heard so far on writing short fiction.
Short stories continue to be an adventure for me, and an excercise in being concise, which is something every writer can learn to improve.