QFT is all about short stories, and recently I’ve been converted to the power of writing them. Even though I generally prefer longer fiction, I think there is some incredible value to writing shorter pieces. Here are a few reasons why:
- Try New Things: With short stories you can play around with new ideas and techniques, without committing to an entire novel that may not be what you want to devote the next year of your life to. If you’re writing a novel, short stories are a great way to develop characters by writing stories about them outside of your novel’s world, or it’s a great way to focus on a particular skill—like dialogue, alliteration, developing villains, or whatever else— in a short piece.
- Improve your Brain Function: One of my favorite recent podcasts is about the power of deliberate practice. The guests discuss how adults can learn new information and their brain literally changes as they develop new skills. Short story writing on a regular basis is a way to improve your writing craft and develop a new skillset. And if you can make your brain bigger in the process? Awesome!
- Immediate Feedback: In the same podcast, they talk about how the people who improve at things are the ones who receive immediate feedback. If you’re writing a novel, for instance, with no feedback as you go, then you’re writing that entire novel at the same skill level. However, if you get feedback after every chapter, then you have new skills and new awareness moving forward. Same for short stories. It’s a complete piece that you can get feedback on, place a new skill in your tool belt, and immediately incorporate what you’ve learned in your next piece of writing.
- Allow Yourself to Suck: I’ve recently become aware of Story A Day, where every day in May, you commit to writing a short story. Julie Duffy, creator of Story A Day, says that when you’re writing stories that quickly, they’re not all going to be masterpieces. Some are going to be good, some are going to suck, but at the end of that time, you still have 30 new stories. She talks about how as you force yourself to come up with ideas, your mind gets better at observing interesting things around you and your brain stretches to complete something hard but doable.
Short Stories are fantastic on their own, or they can be used as sketches of a novel. They are a way to play with ideas and writing craft in a more controlled environment, without the frustration of committing to a whole novel and realizing it’s terrible. We’re a few days into May, but it’s not too late to commit to the Story A Day challenge, or if that’s too ambitious for you, just try your hand at writing one now! Whether it’s your first short story or you’ve written many before, there’s a lot of value in getting the ideas on the page in short form.