As the author of twenty-three short stories ranging from 3,000 to 40,000 words that have been published over the last seven years, I am often asked “Is there really a market for short stories?” The answer is YES – and that market is growing! (By the way, I’m going to use the term “short story” throughout this piece to describe any story under 50,000 words. There are more technical terms, such as novella and novelette, but we won’t get into that today.) There is a growing market for short stories as more people are looking for a story they can read in an hour or two. They want to read a full story all at once when they have some spare time—not read a chapter today, find themselves too busy to read for a week, and then try to pick up with chapter two. Enter the short story. Not only are there dozens of indie publishers out there publishing short stories of various lengths, but traditional publishing houses are jumping on the bandwagon as well. Hachette, Avon, and Harlequin all have imprints that publish these fun-sized romances.
We’ve established that there is a growing market for short stories. But why should you write one? If you’ve never published before, I think short stories are a great place to start. When I first started writing, I tried and failed to finish numerous full-length romances. However, the first time I tried my hand at writing a short story, not only was I able to complete it, but it was accepted for publication! Short stories are a great way to build your self-confidence while you develop your writing style on a smaller scale. For published authors, there are a number of reasons to write short stories as well.
- Struggling with your current novel or feeling a bit of writer’s block? Take a break to write a short story and come back with a fresh view. This can also be a great technique to “get away” from your completed novel before diving in to editing.
- It’s a great way to keep momentum going between novels and keep your name fresh in people’s minds. Instead of waiting two or three years for your next book, they can read your short stories in the interim so they don’t forget about you.
- Short stories are great for free reads and giveaways. Maybe there’s a deleted scene from your last novel that you think your fans would love, or maybe a side adventure (or backstory) for one of your characters. Put it in a short story as a gift to your readers!
Writing a short story is different from writing a full-length novel. My best advice is to think FOCUSED when writing a short story. You’re not giving your readers a distant view of a forest; give them a detailed view of one tree. Many authors make the mistake of thinking “short” or “simple” and get unsatisfying results with their short story. Sure, I could retell Titanic in 10,000 words, but it’s going to read like a Wikipedia page, not a love story. You need to FOCUS on one part that still tells a story—such as Jack and Rose having a horrible dinner together with the upper-class folk before escaping to dance the night away.
When writing a short story, you just don’t have the time or space to flesh out complex internal and external conflicts and resolve them in a way that’s satisfying to readers. For Happily Ever After stories, your characters have probably met previously; it’s less believable if your characters meet, fall in love, and get married in 5000 words. If your characters are meeting for the first time, you’re probably writing a Happy For Now story. You are going to have few, if any, secondary characters; these characters do not get their own plots in short stories. FOCUS on the romance, less on the external conflict or other characters. Be selfish and put your couple in the spotlight; let them steal the show! I once heard that if a novel is a journey, a short story is an experience. Go start your experience today!
By: Kayla Bain-Vrba
Kayla Bain-Vrba has been living in daydreams ever since she was a little girl and writing about them for as long as she can remember. It was her discovery of m/m romance that inspired her first published work at age nineteen. When she’s not writing—or is procrastinating writing—Kayla enjoys spending time with her other half, crafting, and planning things to a tee.