Writing short stories can be both fun and profitable, so the most common question I get is: “what’s a short story?” Here’s the short answer: a short story is any short piece of fiction which is satisfying to the reader.
How to Get Your Head Around a Short Story
- In a short story, someone wants something… a likable character undergoes a transformation, or learns a lesson, or solves a big problem.
- A short story can be any length up to around 20,000 words.
- In commercial fiction, a short story fits a genre.
1. Someone Wants Something
In this article, Basic Short Story Template: Keep It Simple, I gave you a basic template for a short story. Someone wants something, overcomes obstacles, and gets it, or not.
Assuming that you’re writing commercial fiction — fiction which sells — and not literary fiction, that’s a workable template for a short story. If you remember “someone wants something” you won’t write slices of life (vignettes), which although interesting, won’t satisfy readers.
Humans are hard-wired for short stories. In our short fiction writing program, we look at an Australian short story by Henry Lawson, called The Drover’s Wife. It’s one of my favorite stories, because it has everything I like: a strong, uncompromising character, a sense of place, and — of course, someone wants something, is determined to get it, and in the end gets what she wants.
When I was six, my school was a one-room schoolhouse, on the (then) rural outskirts of Sydney. Our teacher read us The Drover’s Wife many times. He made the story real to us. The story’s wonderful when read aloud by someone with a little acting ability.
2. Your Story’s Length
Your story is as long as it needs to be, to tell the story. In practice, it can be up to — or beyond, if you like — 20,000 words. (This turns your story into a novella.)
3. Your Story Needs a Genre
Decide on your genre before you start writing. It helps with Amazon keywords: that is, it helps readers who want that type of story, to find yours.
You can mix genres if you wish; it’s your short story, but do keep genre in mind.
When You Learn to Write Short Stories, You’ll Learn to Write Fiction
Short stories are USEFUL in many ways:
- They teach you to write fiction at any length, and keep control of your story. It’s practice for longer fiction. I wrote short stories for many years. When I sat down to write and sell a novel, I quickly got a publishing contract on a synopsis and chapters. It’s extremely unusual for a new novelist to get a contract on a synopsis. I’m sure the story-writing practice helped me. It will help you, to ;
- They’re easy to expand into longer works: a novel, or a serial;
- They’re satisfying to write: you can complete a short story in a single writing session;
- They can help you to complete something. Often a student will send me an attempt at a (unfinished) novel which can be transformed into a satisfying short story;
- They can be profitable. More writers are writing shorter works, because of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program.
Kindle Short Reads: publishing short material regularly helps you to sell more books
Take advantage of our new short story writing program: Kindle Short Reads. Use this “secret” category with its many sub-categories and enjoy a powerful self-publishing advantage.
Updated: May 28, 2019
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Everyone's busy today. A serial is by its nature, faster to write, and publish, than a novel.
It's a quicker read too, and many readers appreciate this. While a reader may hesitate before committing hours to a novel, he can read an episode of your serial in minutes.More info →
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