I’m Writing A Novel, Why Waste Time With A Short Story?
For a long time, I didn’t see the value in writing short stories. I enjoyed reading them, but I saw no point in writing them. Why write a chapter of some random tale, when I can write a real chapter in my real novel? After I wrote my first short story, I realized how short-sighted that thinking was. Here are some good reasons why writing short stories will help your novel writing prowess more than you ever imagined.
It Forces You To Focus
In a novel, the writer is allowed to wander. Yes, if you zig while you should be zagging, or spend too much time going down too many rabbit holes, the story will suffer. Still, there is time to explore and circle around a bit to where you want to end up. Honestly, it’s one of the best things about writing. Go down a street you never imagined just to see what happens. Introduce your main character to some trouble just to see how she might get out of it.
In a short story, all of that wandering and exploration is trimmed out. Every single sentence must carry the journey forward to its conclusion. There is no time for repetition, there is no need for a backstory, and there are not enough pages to figure it out as you go. The constraints of the short story squeeze meaning into every word and insist on resolution or meaning.
This is an incredible skill to have for novelists. It focuses everything that is on the page and helps to develop a tighter narrative. The wandering will be more meaningful, the unexpected twists will relate better to your plot, and the entire manuscript will have more focus.
Short Stories Teach Feel
A short story begins a certain way, with a certain feel. For it to be a great short story, that feeling must be carried on throughout. The tone of the narrative, the emotion from the words, it all must work together throughout the writing. This is what our chapters should read like in our novels.
Yes, the feel can change from time to time in our novels. Sometimes the reader should be happy while the characters dance around in the sun, and other times the reader should cringe when the tides turn. Writing short stories develops the ability to control and steer those feelings in a much more confident way.
They Put the Reader Right Into the Action
One of the best things that I have learned from writing short stories is that they have a tremendous amount of punch even without a long, drawn out explanation. There is no need to tell, there is just an urgent requirement to show. Put the reader into the story and don’t let them out.
So many times in novels we try to overexplain something. Perhaps we’re just doing that for ourselves, to show the reader that we have thought it through and we’re proud of the world in our heads. The problem is, the reader is bored by our expository ramblings. They would rather watch our character fall through a trap door than be told that the land has trap doors all over it. In short stories, there’s no time to explain, it just has to play out.
Every Writer Should Try Short Stories
Even if you never plan on publishing a short story or making one available for people to read, I recommend writing a few. They tend to make the voice more punchy and impactful, the narrative more concise, and the story more direct. For me personally, I need all the tools I can get to focus my writing and force myself to be plot conscious in all scenarios. Short stories are the best tool I’ve found thus far for those things.
Write a story about a character in your novel, or about a world you’re curious about. Maybe you have an idea for a novel and haven’t started it yet. Start with a short story that takes place in that new universe and see what happens. It’s possible you’ll find some new ideas and some new tools to make your next book great!