Why Short Stories?

Okay, confession time: I want to be a novelist. Preferably a NYT Bestseller. I actually find it hard to write short things–I’m a lawyer, dang it: we think “brief” is its own oxymoron–and I dream of going on book tours where I’ll be able to heft my fancy-covered-tomes across the table to sign them for my adoring fans.

So why should I waste my time on short stories?

I’ll give you three really good reasons:

1: Practice, practice, practice.
I’m not very good at antagonists yet. I’m so not-good at them, that I have several half-finished novels in my trunk that were going along swimmingly until I realized I had NO IDEA who was opposing my hero and why they would do such a thing. My heroes are so nice and wonderful: who would want to stand in their way?

Now, I can fix this, and eventually my villains will strike fear into the hearts of readers everywhere, but it occurs to me that writing 50,000+ words for each half-baked practice villain might not be the most effective way to learn to craft a great one.

Short stories can save me. Writing short stories can help me play with the motivations of antagonists in a much shorter time frame. So then maybe I’ll be able to schedule my book tour before I need my grandchild to come along and heft the books for me.

What’s your writing weakness? I bet you can practice it on a few short stories.

2. Exposure
Contests rarely want full novels. Mainly, I suspect, because the bestselling authors who judge such things as Writers of the Future or, hey, Sibyl’s Scriptorium (did I mention we’re NOW accepting entries?), are much too lazy busy to read that much for every contest. (Heck, even those singing shows on television don’t let them sing a whole song!)

Winning one of these contests, however, can give you a major foot in the door, name recognition, and stuff you can add to your bio and query letters.

That’s before we even start talking about short story magazines and other publications. Or Hugo Awards. All good stuff for a new author to build some name recognition.

3. Short is Sweet
There are readers out there (so I’ve heard) who don’t like reading long books. (I know, right? But we shouldn’t judge.) I’ve seen with my own eyes children turn down amazing books in favor of one that was merely shorter.

These children (and adults), though, can sometimes be forced into reading a short story. And if that short story is FANTASTIC, this reluctant reader just might want to read more. Maybe more by the same author. They might even be willing to read a novel by that author.

All of which helps get me to the signing table on my book tour.

See? Short stories are awesome. Go write one today.

Do you shy away from short stories? Why? Why not?