Small World

- by Elaine Isaak

So here I am on the Novelists, Inc. Blog preparing to talk about short fiction.  The form pops up on our blog from time to time, but I think it deserves its own slot, especially for those of you who are science fiction, fantasy, or horror writers.  Our sister genres have a thriving short story market–exploding, thanks to the web!–with readers interested in all sorts of work from the traditional to the totally out there.

If you are, or want to be, a novelist, why write short?

If you are a newer writer, short stories are a wonderful little playground where you can experiment with ideas, plots, characters–either while you are honing your skills, or when you have specific areas you want to explore.  After workshop feedback that many of his stories were short on conflict, my SF writer dad sat down to write a story all about conflict.  In a short story, you can do that–push the idea, the trope, the element to the max and see what happens without mucking about in the novel you hope to perfect.  Then, take what you’ve learned from the little world, and apply it to the big one.  As my Odyssey Writing instructor, Jeanne Cavelos, points out, in short stories, there’s a faster learning curve:  you don’t have to build up for hundreds of pages to get the payoff.

If you are developing a series or creating a world for your novels, short stories are a fun way to find out more about it.  You can write prequels, deleted scenes, by-ways, anything that strikes your fancy.  When readers have questions about a certain secondary character or intriguing moment, write them a story!

Which brings me to a final point:  short stories are a great way to introduce readers to the world and characters of your novel.  You may be able to sell the story to a magazine, e-zine or anthology in your genre, thus providing an entry point for new readers.  You could read the story at conferences or other appearances, giving a complete and entertaining experience. You can record the story as an audio download, or offer it as a web exclusive for visitors who sign up on your mailing list.  Use it like a teaser to get readers excited about a new installment of the series, or to show them more about your world.

Next time you have a break, w

One comments

  1. You can also go the other way: novel to short story. Take an interesting subcharacter and do a short story about them. It wouldn’t contribute a lot to the novel’s development, but would be interesting on its own.

    Some interesting (to you) backstory? Do it up as a short story.

    Some subplot that was just too much to put in the novel? Do it up as a short story.

    If you’re self-publishing electronically, sell them cheap and ensure there’s a link to your novel. If you traditionally publish, collect several of these together and publish a collection.