Personally, short stories are one of my all-time favorite writing formats. There’s a lot you can do with a little guy, and while it might seem constraining, writing short form fiction actually gives you a lot of creative opportunity.
Are short stories hard to write?
Writing a good short story requires several types of writing skills, making them relatively difficult to master. You have to set a compelling world, develop interesting and relatable characters, and weave a compelling plot, all in a condensed space. It’s definitely a challenge, but one that can be incredibly rewarding for writers who can pull it off!
However, nailing the short story can give you a LOT of transferrable skills to other types of writing. Plus they’re a ton of fun!
I recommend short stories for practicing specific writing techniques. Working in a smaller space with a focus on something like dialogue, description, or character body language can help you really hone in on that aspect. It’s also easier to get peer feedback on a shorter piece than it is to get helpful feedback on a full novel.
While short stories and novels are two entirely different formats, sharpening your prose skills on short stories can transfer directly to stronger prose in longer pieces.
Are short stories or novels harder to write?
According to this 2023 poll, 32.8% of writers find short stories are easier to write, while 39.3% of them find novels easier to write, not considering the time investment.
27.9% of responders did not vote, which leaves us with over 40 responders, which is an appropriate amount of data to draw a conclusion. The conclusion being: It’s about half and half!
One respondent added this comment:
“Shorts, 100%! Having to create the world in a way that feels alive and immersive, while sticking to a smaller block of presentation space makes things significantly more complicated. Novels, you can elaborate and piece puzzles together much easier and fluidly over time.”
Another respondent commented: “I want to get into shorts, but I love describing things too much…”
The conclusion seems to be that short stories require a bit more strategy to fit a substantial story into such a small space, while novels give you much more room to develop characters, setting, themes, and other crucial story elements.
Obviously, it will take much longer to perfect a novel than a short story, for the majority of writers. But time investment not considered, short stories and novels are roughly the same difficulty for the writers polled.
Do you make more money writing novels or writing short stories?
Per word, short stories are typically worth more than novels, while novels are worth more per piece. Novels are more marketable than short story collections, but any book has the opportunity to sell better than another.
On my Hannah Lee Kidder publishing name, I only sell short story collections. On another pen name, I only sell novels. With entirely different genres, strategies, and audiences, they go back and forth between which one is making the most money each month. If I publish a new book, my sales on all books under that name spike. If a YouTube video under the HLK name gets popular, my short story collection sales spike.
Why write short stories?
Writing short stories can help you develop specific writing skills, collect publications, make a little money, and they’re just a super fun format to work with.
1. Hone specific writing skills
Writing short stories is an opportunity to focus on one writing element at a time. With a smaller space, you can perfect a piece with more intention. If you need more practice with dialogue, description, pacing, subtext, or any other writing element, you can write a short story–or even just a scene–and revise it until you’ve nailed that aspect.
Writing a shorter piece also makes it much easier to get feedback, since you don’t have to convince someone to read and critique an entire novel manuscript.
2. Collect publications
Publishing short pieces gives you something impressive to put on your resumes, portfolios, and author bios. Getting smaller pieces traditionally published in journals and literary magazines is much more accessible than publishing a novel.
Many publication opportunities have a monetary incentive. Some publications pay per piece, while others pay per word. If you can kick out quality short stories relatively quickly, you can have a little side income from writing them.
But a better way (in my opinion and experience) to make money from short stories is to keep track of when those publication rights revert back to you. After you have the rights to your published stories, you can publish and sell them as a collection.
Use this free link to take my Skillshare class all about publishing a collection of short stories:
4. It’s fun!
Writing short stories is frankly a blast. It’s motivating to actually complete a piece, so even writing short pieces while you work on a long-form piece can keep you excited about writing.
What is the hardest part of writing a short story?
The hardest part of writing a short story is developing a satisfactory plot in a small space, according to this poll of short story writers in 2023. And I think that answer makes perfect sense. Characters, while not easy, are people. People can relate with people, so there are many ways to draw heuristics in and help readers click with your characters quickly. But fitting a satisfactory plot into a short story is another, well, story.
All writers have different strengths and weaknesses, so the thing you struggle with might be entirely unique to you.
Does writing short stories help you write novels?
Writing short stories can make you a better novelist. Learning to write on a smaller scale can help you practice the details of prose, character development, themes, and other story elements. Once you’ve ironed out your skills, you can turn your attention to writing a novel that will be several steps ahead in the First Draft game.
All in all, short stories can be a worthwhile venture, whether you ultimately intent to pursue it seriously. You can hone specific writing skills, sharpen your prose, add a few publications to your resume, and get the general feeling of success from finishing a project!