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Short is mighty

How short story writing can sharpen your craft

Short fiction may be concise but it is no less powerful. Arguably the most famous piece of short fiction is by Ernest Hemingway, who wrote this moving story in just six words: 

‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn.’

Short stories, however, can be various lengths from micro fiction (under 275 words) to flash fiction (500 to 1,000 words) to full short stories that typically reach up to 10,000 words.

You don’t need to worry about lengths unless you are looking to enter a competition or get your story published so begin with an idea and see where it leads. 

Time is precious

Writing short fiction isn’t necessarily easy, and sometimes making stories concise may be harder, but it’s certainly quicker than longer fiction, especially at the drafting stage. 

Lots of people are short on time, juggling any combination of work, kids, pets, household chores. Finding time to write can be hard. Many more are short on mind space. Short stories can therefore feel much more achievable. They can also be hugely satisfying due to the sense of achievement you can feel when finishing them. 

Here are two ways to get a first draft finished in one sitting: 

For both options, keep going until the end. Give yourself permission to write badly or brilliantly but remember to keep going until that first draft is finished.  

Keep it simple

There are a few things to bear in mind when writing short fiction:  

And, a couple of extra tips: 

Try something new

Short stories offer you the opportunity to try new styles, genres and approaches before committing to working with them longer-term. It’s a chance to get experimental. 

Have you always fancied writing sci-fi? Try it. Do you always write in the third person point of view? A diary story will force you to write in the first. Are all your protagonists male? Try writing a story from the perspective of another gender. 

Play with forms too. Can you tell a story in the form of a list? Or in the style of a newspaper article? Or framed by your great-grandmother’s recipe for fruit cake? Whatever it is, try it. 

If you have a longer project in hand, you could take a few of your characters and put them in a new place or situation. It’s a great way to get to know them even more. 

No writing is wasted, even if it’s not used.

However, it’s generally easier to let go of a piece of short fiction that’s not working than a novel you spent every spare minute working on for more than a year. Why not start with a short story and see if it leads to something bigger?

Author Mandy Berriman, for example, wrote a short story called ‘Home’ for the Stories for Homes anthology which became a novel that was published by Doubleday. 

Experiment with short fiction today and enjoy a mini adventure.  

About Laura Besley

Laura Besley is a full-time mum to two young boys and has various notebooks in which she scribbles ideas for short fiction. She is the author of The Almost Mothers flash fiction collection published by Dahlia Books.

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