Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Importance of Writing Short Stories

By Stephanie Burkhart 
Break out the thesaurus and find an hour or two this month to get the juices flowing on that short story you always wanted to write – May is National Short Story Month. 
There are several different kinds of shorts. Flash Fiction shorts are usually 1,000 words or less, and depict a “telling” moment. 1 or 2 characters may be involved. 
A short story usually falls between 1,000 – 7,000 words and again, is centered on a “revealing” moment. With a short story, you can place that revealing moment in the beginning and play out the consequences, or at the end after a strong build up. 
A novelette comes in between 7,000 – 20,000 words. This length allows a writer to focus on one main character and the story. 
A novella is between 20,000 – 50,000 words. Like a novelette, the story is most effective when the focus is on one main character and one plot. 
Parables and fables are some of the earliest known “shorts.” Going back about 150-200 years, Washington Irving, Nathanial Hawthorne, and Edgar Allen Poe not only mastered the craft of short story telling, but defined the era of writing a short story focusing on plot, character, and consequences. 
In the early 20th Century, magazines like Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, and Saturday Evening Post, created a demand for short stories and paid well – so well that F. Scott Fitzgerald took to writing short stories to pay the bills. 
The popularity of the short story tapered off a bit in the past 50-60 years, but has recently resurged after finding a new audience.
With the introduction of ereaders, downloading stories has never been easier. What short stories provide is a quick read with a satisfying ending. - at least, most are satisfying, but ereaders totally invigorated the market for short stories. How? Short stories usually command a lower price point making then a good impulse buy. Sites such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, are popular places for readers to feed their ereaders.  
Strategies employed by authors using short stories include using the stories as a “free” giveaway when readers sign up for e-newsletters or as a reward for winning a contest. Shorts can be used to promote a novel, or written to help keep the joy of writing alive. An author might consider using the Kindle Select Program. While you do give Kindle exclusive access to publish the short for 90 days, the 5 free days offered can help get sales off the ground. Due to their length, short stories have proven to wet a reader’s appetite for more works from an author. They’re a great way for authors to break out in a very competitive publishing world. 
Question: As an author, do you write short stories? Why or Why not? Do you find them helpful in promoting/marketing efforts? 
Reference for this blog: “Writer’s Digest,” May/June 2015, “Short Strategic,” by James Scott Bell, pages 23-27.

Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 Dispatcher for LAPD. She served 11 years in the US Army and 7 years overseas in Germany. She adores coffee, enjoys coffee and likes taking walks.  She's also the den leader for her son's cub scouts den.  Her published children's stories include "The Giving Meadow," "First Flag of New Hampshire," and "Brady's Lost Blanket." 








  1. I've seen shorts successfully used to bridge novels or provide more information on favorite characters.

  2. Good information, Steph. Hopefully, I will have a short story in an anthology soon. I wrote one as a prequel to my new series.

  3. I've sold several short stories. I also like putting them on my website for extra content. Thanks for some good information and several more great ideas.

  4. Authors with 4RV need to brush off their short story writing talents because we're going with a new promotion idea. Stay tuned for details.

  5. I love reading and writing short stories. My book "Stepping into a New Role, Stories from Stepmoms", to be released early 2016, is a collection of non-fiction stories from stepmoms I interviewed, as well as my own stories from my 10 years as a stepmom. I am now working on the same style of book for stepdads. It has been so therapeutic hearing all of these stepparents stories!

  6. I started with short stories long b4 I went to novels. I still contract with 1 company for short stories. It's a nice break from the long stuff & helps the in-between cash flow.