So, I’m currently reading through Jim Butcher’s Side Jobs, a collection of short stories in the Dresden Files universe. Most of these have been previously published in various anthologies, sandwiched between authors such as Charlaine Harris, Kelley Armstrong, Patricia Briggs, and lots of other big names in the Urban Fantasy world. They’re fun to read, and are nice little single-servings of Dresden to tide me over until I make it to the library to pick up Changes.
It did get me thinking, though, about the beauty of the short story, both from a literary perspective and a marketing one. Lots of times, aspiring authors focus so much of their energy on their novel, their word count, that they forget there’s other avenues to get their work and their name out there. Short stories can be incredibly fun and gratifying to write — by their very nature of being a “short” story, it’s much easier (theoretically) to pound out a finished product than it is to complete a long, involved novel. At the same time, they can be incredibly fun and gratifying for readers. They don’t have to invest an entire novel’s worth of their time to your stuff to see if they like it. On the bonus side, there’s always a publication accepting submissions for short stories. You can get your work published (and get more credits to get potential agents interested) and introduce your work to more readers, all without having to finish that damn novel first.
They’re also a really great way to explore aspects of your characters or side-stories that just don’t fit within the confines of your novel. And the more you can familiarize yourself with your characters and your world, the more it will show in your final product.
My challenge to you: Go write a short story. No, really. DO IT. Pick a character (or two!) and just write. And when you’re done, have someone you trust read it and give you feedback. Revise it. Get more feedback and then revise it some more. Then SUBMIT IT. Don’t just let it sit in your “Writing” file folder in your Dropbox, it’s not doing anyone any good there. Give yourself a deadline, and then send it out into the world and see if anyone wants to publish it. Revise it while you’re waiting for the responses, and if it doesn’t get accepted, send it out again. And again. And again…
And no matter what, just keep writing.