Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Long and the Short of It

Short or long? As a writer you may often ask yourself if you want to tackle a big fish -- a novel-length project, or stay in shallower waters and write short stories. Some of you might decide to shuffle it around... work on a novel, maybe even complete that novel, and then write short stories or articles here and there. In any case, there are advantages to each side. This time around I will address the positives of short-story writing.

Time: By nature we are impatient beings. The idea of spending months, maybe years, on one endeavor is mind-blowing, isn't it? Of course, the rewards may pay off, IF you sell it to a publisher. However, the sweet success of accomplishment in short-story writing is so satisfying, even if the monetary rewards are small. Say you spend a couple of weeks writing and polishing your story, and when you submit, if you're lucky, another couple weeks with a magazine editor who buys it, well, you've just left one more mark on the world of published writing with your name on it.

Juggling: Of course while you have one story floating out there with a publisher, you've been working on another. Right? If not, you should. Don't let the dust settle. Keep it stirring! There are lots of magazines and ezines with a variety of interests just waiting for the next submission to fill their slots. Thus, a lot more opportunity to be published in the world of magazines compared to book publishing. Don't let these opportunities pass you by; submit, submit, submit!

Credits: Many published authors of novels, some even famous, got their start by selling short stories. As they say, "it looks good on a resume". Well, it helps, too, when you can include such publishing credits in a query letter. Especially it you are a newbie who is peddling your first novel.

Skills: If you are serious about writing, you know it's a constant in your life. You keep writing to improve your craft. Writing short stories and articles gives you an opportunity to hone your skills. In the beginning the writer is raw, making lots of first-time writer mistakes. Much better to practice and improve during those shorter projects. Then when you tackle that monster novel, you'll be equipped and ready. Or at least make fewer mistakes.

Window Shopping: One of the advantages to magazine submissions is the variety -- in fiction the many genres, in non-fiction an infinite number of topics. If you haven't decided where your niche is, this may be the venue in finding out. So, you write a mystery short, or maybe an article on travel, or whatever.... you're window shopping for what fits just right on you. And if you do know what your passion is, your forte, then just keep writing in that area and submitting.

I hope this has given you some food for thought. And the next time I will post tips on short-story writing. If you have any of your own suggestions or comments, drop a line!


hellionist said...

And what with the mental blocks and blank pages, eh? Yeah, sometimes it makes me crazy when an idea doesn't pop up at the right places or when your mind only supplies you the first three chapters or the climax. It's frustrating. PATIENCE is the word you have to swallow when it comes to writing. But I guess life gets better when you get the hang of it.

Just don't give up. Fill it with love. ^^

Hunter said...

As always, nice post.

There's definitely something to be said for the immediate gratification of actually finishing a piece and having someone else see it...

teacherwriter said...

hellionist... I sometimes think it's like playing golf. Just when you think you've got your game, the next time out it's back to square one! You're right about the patience though. It takes tons of it!

teacherwriter said...

Hunter... It is a great feeling and leaving you wanting more!

Sarah said...

for now i can only manage short pieces and will be happy if i can do that one thing well.

plainolebob said...

been down for a little while, but glad i came by today. remember what you said bout namin characters, every one is laughin at my latest.
been writing for two months as of today, all because of a blog site and an accident. wierd huh?
ain't no writer but bI sure love tellin stories.

Vanessa Rogers said...

thanks for the comments on the blog and that was a really cool song. I have never heard of that artist, but I plan to check 'em out!

teacherwriter said...

Sarah, It's good to find something you feel comfortable with :-)

Bob, Your stories always bring folks pleasure! Keep it up.

Vanessa, You are very welcome.

Jenno said...

Awesome tips; they alone are sufficient inspiration to make me want to hunker down and churn out some stories. :)