Short stories have long been my favorite thing to write. There’s something about the brevity of the form that compels a clarity of storytelling that can be difficult to achieve, but oh-so satisfying when successful. Short stories demand an economy of words reminiscent of poetry or picture books, coupled with the skillful mastery of all the elements of good long fiction. Moreover, If writing a novel can sometimes feel like moving across country for a years-long stay in a new idea, tackling a story is more of a brisk vacation. Think of it as a few weeks spent hiking in the mountains. Sure, you’ll work your butt off, testing your endurance while exerting writing muscles you never knew you had. But once you finally reach the summit of a completed story, the intensity of the gratification you’ll feel is hard to describe.
So then why don’t more children’s writers tackle short stories?
These days, short fiction for kids is a thriving corner of the market. In recent years, there’s been a noticeable increase in the number of successful middle grade and young adult anthologies being published, including groundbreaking New York Times Bestsellers like BLACK BOY JOY, and critically acclaimed award-winners like A PHOENIX FIRST MUST BURN and RURAL VOICES. In addition, there is a small but growing pool of online and print publications catering specifically to stories for young readers, while many adult publications have grown more open to accepting stories that appeal to both adults and young readers alike.
Nevertheless, I’ve found that many children’s writers remain intimidated by short stories or unsure of where and how to begin writing them. That’s why Nora Shalaway Carpenter and I will be teaching an introductory webinar on the form later this spring (see below for details). Have you ever written a short story? If not, here are five good reasons you ought to give it a try:
1. Short stories offer an ideal place to learn the craft of fiction.
Writing a novel is hard, but writing a novel while trying to master the basics of storytelling can be terrifying. Short stories offer beginning writers a more manageable canvas upon which to hone their skills, without the pressure and complexity of tackling a full-length novel.
2. Short stories provide a direct path to publication.
You don’t need an agent to publish short fiction. All you need is a good story, the ability to scrupulously follow submission guidelines, and a fair bit of persistence!
3. Short stories furnish an ideal platform to play, experiment, and grow.
Have a cool idea but you don’t want to invest time developing it into a novel? Want to try your hand at a genre you’ve never attempted before? Feeling stuck in your writing and looking for a way to shake things up? Short stories offer a great outlet to address these concerns.
4. Short stories present a quicker route to the satisfaction of completion and the confidence that builds.
Sometimes you just need to revel in that blissful feeling of accomplishment. You’ll get there a lot faster (and more frequently) when you’re writing short stories!
5. Short stories are an accessible, powerful way to reach young readers.
Don’t believe conventional wisdom: Young people do read short stories. Whether it’s Highlights Magazine, textbooks in school, cool podcasts online, or the latest anthology hitting bookstores, kids are reading and loving short stories. Moreover, many of them are writing them too!
If these reasons aren’t enough to persuade you, I’ll throw in one more as a bonus: It’s fun! I LOVE writing short stories. I’ve written dozens over the years and published quite a few of them. If nothing else, I can promise that you won’t regret giving it a try. And who knows? Maybe you’ll come to enjoy them as much as I do. Why not take the plunge?
Cheers and happy writing!
Find me online at www.cloudbusterpress.com and @CloudbusterRob.