S is for Short Stories

Lately, even though I mostly write novels, I’ve been playing around with short stories. I’ve been doing this:

  1. For the challenge of it. It’s fun to shake things up and develop new skills.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Do you write short stories? How did you get started, and do you have any advice to offer?

THIS POST IS PART OF THE A-Z BLOG CHALLENGE, A MONTH OF ALPHABETICAL BLOGGING. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE A-Z CHALLENGE, OR CHECK OUT ALL MY A-Z POSTS.

17 thoughts on “S is for Short Stories

    1. I like the idea of stories via social media, like Twitter and Instagram, that are limited to a short amount of words or characters. I’ll have to check yours out!

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  1. I am thinking about writing a book (maybe with the characters of my short stories), well a long story once A to Z is over.
    The A to Z Challenge has pushed me to write a whole lot of short stories (more flash fiction), and they seem to be appreciated. I generally picked a word that started with the Days letter (today, for the letter T it is a short story about time, yesterday it was one about a Snake) and build a story around that word. My advice is to set an upper limit in word count and then go for it, if you have a short time frame to write in, that’s even better, because it is flash fiction all the way through. At the moment I try not to exceed 250 words, sometimes I do… And at the moment just one short story has led to another, and the third part has announced itself in the writing too.

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    1. I find that the more you write, well, the more you write. Writing begets writing, it seems. I’m so impressed that you can condense a story into 250 words, though. That takes a lot of care.

      Have you written a book before? I recommend it; they’re fun! National Novel Writing Month helped me along, if you’re into challenges. 🙂

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      1. You avoid useless ramblings that might loose your readers when it has to be in 250 words only…
        I have not written a book before, always wanted to, the A to Z challenge definitely plunged me into a whole creativity craze. So I will hopefully. I guess the best way to do it is just start 🙂
        I will look into that challenge, it is in November right? I didn’t know that I would like challenges, but as I am loving A to Z I am all ears for challenges that push the boundaries of my creativity.

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      2. It’s funny how challenges kind of prep you for other challenges. 🙂 And yes, NaNoWriMo is in November, and it’s definitley a great one to push your boundaries!

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  2. All my short stories ended up going into a full length novel. They ended up fitting so well I had to do it.

    Stephen Tremp
    A to Z Co-host
    T is for Telepathy, Telekinesis, and Teleportation

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  3. I can understand that, and I think that’s what would happen eventually if I end up writing some short stories I’m happy with. The novel is definitely my preferred format.

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  4. Short stories seem to be really popular with readers nowadays, too. I find them so difficult to write but like you, I am hoping that if I learn to condense to the essentials, it will improve my writing. I started by writing a novella, thinking I would never manage the word power for a full-length novel, but there was so much I had to leave out to fit the 15,000 word length, it’snow a planned novella series 🙂
    @AnneKnol1 from
    New Author Support – Tips on Writing and Promotion from A to Z

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    1. Yes, I think people have so much going on nowadays that short stories are all some people have time for. And yeah, I remember when I thought I could never write a whole novel, and now I’m having to cut stuff out of what I wrote! Good luck with short story writing!

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    1. Fiction School is really wonderful! I like their podcasts a lot. A lot of good, practical advice, and it’s three writers with all different perspectives, so you get a nice, rounded approach.

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      1. I know some writer bloggers who really like the advice from the “Writing Excuses” podcasts. I haven’t had time to check them out yet, but I thought I’d pass it along. 🙂

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      2. I also like Writing Excuses, and I Should Be Writing. I spend a good bit of time in the car, so I like to listen to podcasts when I have long stretches of road to cover.

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