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My Return To Short Stories

Short story, or novel? Does one sell better than another? Is there a reason to choose one over another?

When I first published my inspirational romance novel The Envelope to the Kindle store, I decided to turn it into a series of sorts. I had left the end of the original novel open to that on purpose. But at the time, I wasn’t feeling equal to the task of any more novels. Why not write short story follow-ups, instead?

So I did. Some cheat and call stories of that length “novellas”, but to my mind anything under 100 pages is a short story. I wrote eight, I think, and published them in two collections. A few people bought them, but that’s all. As time passed and I looked at what I’d written, I was not happy with them. I rushed through the stories, left out a lot details, because I didn’t want to make myself be patient to flesh out a novel. So I eventually wrote four follow-up novels. I decided I was too verbose to be any good at writing short stories.

And then, we built a house

In case you haven’t been following my blog, let me update you about the past six months at our place: crazy. Nuts. We had an earth-sheltered house built this summer, and have been working on the interior while our digger guy has been burying it ever since. I coached myself to hang up my novel ideas for a while. I promised myself that as soon as the house was built, I would jump back into writing at full speed. By then, Jerry would have a lot more free time and thus be able to spend a couple hours with Benjamin so that I can write.

My problem was, my fingers started itching to write a couple of weeks ago. The idea of having to wait another month before I began working on my book business grated on me. Made me irritable. And I didn’t even have P.M.S.

The reason for short stories

Then I listened to a podcast where a short story author explained why he is focusing on short stories – and why it’s a good way to make money. First of all, a lot of people look for quick reads. In this culture of short attention spans and demand for instant everything, there is a good market for short stories.

Second, it’s a good way to test which kind of stories people enjoy most. This goes beyond genre to the author’s personal style as well as story elements, such as setting.

Toward the end of the podcast, the author named a title of a short story written by a popular sci-fi author – who I think writes mostly (if not exclusively) short stories. Curious, I bought that particular story. It was ninety-nine cents for 5,000 words.

A story of that length is often called a short-short story.

I read it, and studied. And I thought, I could do this!

In fact, I needed to do this – that is, write short-shorts for a time. Right now, life is too chaotic and unstructured for me to carve out time to work on a long-term project. To successfully write a novel, I have to work on it every day, and not be interrupted and kept from my daily quota. When that happens, I lose track of not only details of different characters, but also critical plot points such as the passing of time or a conversation that I need to follow up on in a later chapter.

But I can finish a short-short story in three or four days, writing about five pages and a bit every day. I don’t have to keep track of the color of somebody’s hair or plot twists.

My goal

By the time I publish this blog post, I will have completed two short-short stories. I plan to write at least two sets of loosely related short stories (by theme), each set containing six stories. When I have completed one set, I will begin publishing them to the Kindle store, one per week. When they are all published, I will create a box set for $2.99.

My plan is working great so far. I can work on the stories in fits and starts, and am no longer frustrated because I’m not writing. Even better, I have developed the difficult skill of writing an effective short story. All I needed was a good model and a few minutes to study it.

Will I keep on writing short-shorts once we are settled in the house? Maybe. But if you enjoy my novels, don’t worry. I’m not giving up on them. I have too many ideas. However, writing a novel is draining, and I am glad to have an alternative. Whenever I need a break from writing a long story, I can fall back on the short ones.

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And thanks in advance for reading…and reviewing.  🙂

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