Until last autumn, I’d never thought of writing short stories for magazines. All my ideas seemed too long to fit into 1000 or 2000 words. That changed when I had the idea for a short fantasy romance called Jack’s Garden. My critique partners loved the story, so I decided it was worth submitting to a magazine in the hope they loved it as well. I chose My Weekly in the UK, as I knew the magazine published romances with a touch of supernatural or fantasy.
I’m delighted that My Weekly also loved the story and bought it. Not only is this satisfying in itself, I’ve realised what a useful promotional tool short stories can be. This magazine allows the author to include a short bio with the story, which gives the opportunity to mention published novels and include a website address. Imagine what great advertising this is: hundreds of thousands of people could potentially read the short story, and at the end, they will see the title of a book written by the same author. At least a few of them are likely to look it up on the Internet.
Short stories also provide the ideal format to try different techniques. I’ve often thought of writing a book in first person, but not wanted to risk all the time and effort involved in writing a long novel in first person, only to discover it doesn’t work for me. But I’m quite happy to take an hour or two to write one or two thousand words in first person, or present tense, to see how it sounds.
Some of the magazines also encourage trying unusual techniques, such as all dialogue. The short form is the ideal place to try all those techniques you’d like to try but never get around to. It’s also so much fun! I have many ideas swimming around inside my head and instead of having to finish 80,000 words or more before I can start a new story, I can write a new one every day if each is only a few thousand words.
Try bite-sized fiction. It’s instant gratification for writers.