At the 2011 World Horror Convention, I went to a panel called Why We Write Short Stories. When people used to talk about being a short form or long form writer, I had no idea where I fell into those categories or if I had a preference or the skills for one or the other. I started off with short stories as a way to get myself back into writing and sold a few, but I have come to discover I prefer writing novels. Author Guest of Honour, Joe Hill was on the panel at the convention as well as some other great short story writers. No one claims you’ll get rich from writing short stories (not that novels will get you there either) and in a time where short story markets seem to come and go, are there still important reasons to write short stories? This was an interesting panel for me, and I thought I’d share what I learned there with you.
Suzanne Church, a Canadian author said it was a way for her to build a brand and said, “I want people to know my name.” Short stories can lead to many opportunities to do appearances, signings and readings that wouldn’t happen if you’re locked away working exclusively on novels that take a lot longer to finish, perfect, submit and publish.
Brad Sinor said short stories are a great way to teach ourselves about making a deadline. He also said the longest distance for a writer is from the brain to the page, which I thought was a fantastic line. Just get it down, he told us. He also told us that Roger Zelazny would always write a short story about his main character to get to know them. I think that’s a great reason to write a short story, to improve your novel!
Joe Hill said for him, the short story form is the “great classroom.” He told us he spent three years writing an epic fantasy that didn’t sell, and then wrote short stories because he needed to learn the skills of writing (dialogue, etc) faster. If you haven’t read Joe Hill’s short stories I highly recommend them. They are incredible.
I thought I’d written my last short story and had turned to focusing on novels, but lately I’ve gotten the bug to submit to a great anthology and I can’t seem to resist the call. I want to do it because it promises to be a lot of fun, but should I be focusing on short stories? I think perhaps I should keep an open mind and continue to work on both the long and the short form to continue to improve my craft and to keep challenging myself.
Are you a short form or long form writer? Do you write both but prefer one over the other? Are writers naturally one or the other? What are your own reasons for writing short stories?