I tell pretty much every aspiring writer to start with short stories. Here’s why:
- Short stories force you to be concise. I’ve heard people say that they don’t like writing short stories because they don’t like the word limit. Although I appreciate an immersive reading experience filled with rich descriptions, concision is an art that is worth mastering. Plus, no matter what you publish, you’re likely going to have some form of word limit.
- Short stories are faster. You should be able to produce more short stories in the same amount of time as you could produce a single novel. Write multiple short stories and send them out to different publishers at the same time. Some publishers don’t want simultaneous submissions, meaning that they don’t want you to submit the same story to different publications at the same time. Instead, submit different stories to different publications simultaneously.
- Short stories often don’t require an agent. Some publishing houses will only look at your work if you have an agent, but many short story publishers allow you to submit work to them without one.
- Short stories are good practice. Want to explore a certain theme or iron out a specific skill? Write a short story for just that. You could practice the skill alone, such as writing descriptions, but if you use a short story to practice with, it forces you to practice other skills at the same time, and when you’re done, you may have a product to submit to a publisher.
- Short stories can look good on your cover letter. As much as you might want to get accepted by a big publishing house (I do, too), some short story publications also have notable reputations and have won awards, so please don’t dismiss them. A book is a sizeable investment for a publisher, and showing that your work has sold in other markets may give your book pitch a boost.
- Short stories allow you to explore other genres. Just because you have a favorite genre doesn’t mean you have to stay there forever. If you want to play in another genre, consider starting with short stories to test the waters. If you don’t know where to start in a new genre, consider finding a market first and then writing a story tailored specifically to that publisher’s submission guidelines.
- Short stories are fun! Once you start a short story, it may surprise you how much fun you can have with only a few pages.