When fellow writers ask me how I became a published author in middle-grade fiction, they’re often surprised to hear I didn’t always write for kids. In fact, I cut my teeth as a writer penning short fiction—usually under 2,500 words, and pretty dark stuff. And I think every writer should give short fiction a go. Here’s why:
1. It’s Low-Risk
Do you have any unsold novel manuscripts in a dusty drawer somewhere? I do — about half a dozen of them. Although they were important stepping stones to get where I am today,
they took oodles of time to write. Short stories can be penned in a day. So if you don’t find a home for that story, no big deal. It’s low-risk.
2. You Can Try Something New
That short time commitment has another perk: you can try your hand at a different genre. Feel like writing a little sci-fi, something dark, or romantic? Short fiction allows you to dabble in everything and see where you shine. I tried romance a few times,and realized I’m terrible at it.
3. You Learn Craft
Writing short stories, I learned how to build characters, make dialogue sing, write tight, and use language to its fullest. The short form means every single word counts—just like it should in a novel-length manuscript. But with the lower time commitment, you can hone your craft before committing to a novel.
4. You Learn the Biz
Ready to submit those short stories? There are hundreds of markets out there seeking nearly every kind of short fiction imaginable; you can use sources like Duotrope to find the right one for your story. You’ll learn to write a cover letter, how to properly format your document, how to work with an editor — all skills you’ll need once you’re ready to hit the big time with your novel-length work.
5. You Get Credit
Got a few acceptances for your short fiction? Now you’re an author — and those publishing credits look great on your cover letter when you’re ready to find an agent for your novel-length work. Those published short stories show that you took the time to learn your craft, so good for you. I had a few dozen credits to pick from for my cover letter; I don’t know if it made a difference, but it certainly didn’t hurt my chances.
One last benefit to writing short fiction: I made lots of friends, and now I have contacts throughout the mystery community (since I wrote crime fiction). That network comes in very handy when one is looking to build an audience as a debut author.
That’s my case for writing short stories. How about you? Have you ever written short fiction?
“Double Vision” is F.T. Bradley’s new middle-grade series about Linc Baker and Ben Green. Find out more at http://www.doublevisionbooks.com/