Seven Good Reasons to Write Short Stories

Seven Great Reasons to Write Short Stories

  1. Writing short stories is a good way to learn the craft of fiction writing. With a very small investment you will learn how to put sentences together to tell a story. You will learn the basics of character creation, world-building, creating natural dialogue and continuity. Most importantly, you’ll learn if you actually like writing.
  2. Especially when you’re still in the early stages of learning how to write well, it’s much easier to get people to read your 3,000 word story than your 80,000 word novel.
  3. Since stories are easy to read and to judge on both their writerly and structural merits and shortcomings, they are the perfect length to workshop. Workshopping can give you feedback, that you can use to improve your craft.
  4. There may well be a market for your short stories. You can send them to editors who could purchase them for magazines or anthologies.  They may even pay you money.
  5. It’s a time-tested way to start your writing career. Many writers have been discovered by editors within the pages of other publications. And short stories can help you start building a fan base. Awards you win as a short story writer will likely make it easier to sell your novel, not to mention, more lucrative.
  6. Short stories can be conceived, written, critiqued and rewritten within a very short span of time. Perfect for giving writing addicts a quick fix of attention, feedback, and appreciation.
  7. Short stories are the perfect length to adapt for different media. A comic book or movie can contain about as much information as contained in the average short story, whereas novels should probably be serialized for best effect.

Seven Reasons Not To Write Short Stories

  1. Writing skills you learn from writing short stories may not be transferable or at least, as effective in longer works. Brevity, conciseness, poetic language, obscurity and clever twists are often more effective in short stories than in novel length works. So you may be honing the wrong skills for long term success.
  2. Your remuneration for a short story sale will seldom exceed a couple hundred dollars, so the number of short stories you’d need to write and sell to top markets in a year is impractical for most people. One can count, on the fingers of one hand, the number of authors who make a living or have made one at any point in their careers, entirely from writing short stories. Better hone your lecturing and novel-writing skills and decide what you’re gonna do for your day job (it can be argued that it’s no easier to make a living as a novelist, but that’s a different list altogether).
  3. Many mind-boggling world-builders simply aren’t able to fit their visions into the format. So writing short stories may be a source of frustration and disillusionment – and frankly may waste a great deal of your time, which may be put to far better use as a novelist, or non-fiction writer, or a landscaper. Your inability to write good ones may convince you you’re not cut out for writing, when just the opposite may be true.
  4. Short stories tend to be stylistically sophisticated and less plot driven. So, skills that may put you at a disadvantage as a story writer could be very valuable as a novelist.
  5. Many – if not most – readers simply do not like short stories. They would turn away from the best short stories in the world to get swept up in a cheesy, pulpy adventure – especially if there are sequels.
  6. As a rule, short story collections sell poorly.
  7. Short stories bring you faster results. Quicker feedback can be tough if it’s negative. If you don’t have a pile of self-confidence, it may be easier and more enjoyable to lose yourself in a big dreamworld of your own creation than to hone a hundred glittering little gems. If writing itself is what gives you pleasure, then the less often you have to submit your work to public scrutiny, the less that pleasure will be potentially undermined. Novel writing gives you much more of a chance to get good before your joy is forced to withstand the enthusiasm-withering regard of the rest of the world.

I'm sure lots of you can think of arguments one way or another. Please, share!

About the Commenters.

James Van Pelt's The Diorama can be read at his blog is at

Michael Skeet's Blog Quipu contains everything from hilarious reviews of  novelty breakfast cereals to his terrific alternate history novel, Dixie's Land, in its entirety.


  1. Hi, Dale. Interesting points on an evergreen topic. I've been mostly a short story guy my whole career. For me, the main argument against writing short stories is that they don't make much money. What I've seen of novels, though, is they don't make much money either. Someone who actually wants a career in writing fiction would be smart to write novels, since that's the only path to money, but I think the pursuit of money while doing art puts the cart in front of the horse.

    The money-making novelists I know made their way to the top more or less accidentally while writing the work they loved. They didn't pursue the money so much as the money found them. So, I recommend to new writers that if they have a choice (not everyone does), to at least start out with short stories. They are the quickest way to learn most of the narrative lessons a writer needs to write novels and the feedback comes much quicker.

    Thanks for the article.

  2. Hey Jim,
    Nice to hear from you. For sure, mileage varies.

    I agree with you that everyone should try short story writing - to see how well the form fits - but they should also try shorter and longer formats and different media. If we're all doing what we love, then nobody's a loser.

    I spent 30 years writing nothing but short stories, with occasional high points over a mediocre but inconsistent career - and then discover to my simultaneous dismay and delight - past the age of 60 that I love the process of novel writing.

    My less than spectacular success as story writer always had me feeling that I wasn't a consistently good enough writer to do well as a novelist. But I have always been a story/plot guy - and I honestly think that my areas of greatest talent are more suited to the long format.

    And even if it turns out that I'm wrong, I'm sure having a blast doing it!

  3. We're about the same vintage as writers. I've been thinking a lot about creativity, a career arc, and what it means to be writing in my 60s. I've come to a sort of peace with being the writer I am, which feels good.

    I just put up "The Diorama" at Curious Fictions, which was in TransVersions #11. If you recall, it had an artist as a main character. I based it a little on my best friend who also is an artist. We talk often about the crossover between writing a story and doing a piece of art. We also were both high school teachers (me in English and him in art), and found that we approached fostering creativity in similar ways.

  4. I've never been happy with my prolificacy (or more accurately, my lack of it). It did feel good to finish a collection and get it out in the world. But it also made me conscious of how much I want to say and feel I still have to say. It is a tougher market than ever out there - and in many ways, feels like it's no longer my world. I too have found contentment, but mine came with simply getting stuff done. I care less about the reception it gets than simply having done it and have thought many times that if I found out the world was going to end tomorrow, I'd be writing harder, even knowing that no one but me would likely ever read it.

  5. Dale, I found your seven reasons for writing short stories excellent advice, and I've put up a response - slash - appreciation on Quipu. I am not quite so enthusiastic about your reasons for not writing short fiction, mostly for the reasons Jim has already enumerated. I'm not even sure it has to be a one-or-the-other sort of thing. I'm mostly writing novels myself these days, but I've recently sold a short story to the upcoming Tesseracts anthology, and I still write short stories when the ideas come to me.


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