My brain has a tendency to stretch every story idea that comes to mind into a novel, no matter what it is. Novels have been my preference an...

My brain has a tendency to stretch every story idea that comes to mind into a novel, no matter what it is. Novels have been my preference and go-to length for most of my writing life, and for good reason: I love to read novels! But recently I've been challenged by my creative writing classes at university to write short stories. Though it's been difficult to shift my thinking into the shorter form, I've discovered numerous benefits and had a lot of fun as well!

In fact, I've enjoyed it so much I now believe all writers should practise writing short fiction, whether short stories or flash fiction or poetry. Even if you never write more than one, there are amazing benefits and skills developed in the process.

1) Finetune Conflict

Short fiction often focuses on a single conflict or a moment of one. Some writers even suggest that short stories are finding the climax of a story and trimming everything else, which is true to some extent: short fiction at its best delves into a heightened moment where conflicting forces clash, whether those are external or internal.

By writing and practising short fiction, you learn to build up, complicate, heighten and resolve conflict within a few hundred or thousand words. That's not a skill to be underestimated. As novels take hundred of pages to resolve tensions, often the art of learning how to handle a conflict by itself is lost amongst other concerns and subplots. Short fiction is an excellent refresher in how to use all the stakes, drama and emotional impact a single conflict can offer.

2) Tightens Prose

I'll be the first to declare I'm a wordy writer; indeed, I often over-inflate my prose with unneeded details and phrases. But short fiction doesn't give you the luxury of a large and flexible wordcount. Like in poetry, every word matters, and writing short fiction forces you to look at each word individually and justify its purpose.

For overwriters like myself, it can be a challenge to keep short fiction from expanding into novels when the words start flowing, but it's a needed challenge. By giving yourself a wordcount limit for your short fiction, you'll learn how to tell the best story you can with as few words as possible.

3) Understand Stories' Weights

Some stories require more page time than others. As I mentioned earlier, my instinct has always been to turn each story idea I get into a novel, but writing short fiction made me realize not every story needs to be that long. Some have a hundred thousand words to tell in them, some only two hundred. What's important is learning that there are stories better suited to short lengths, and some to long.

Writing short fiction has honed my ability to assess new story ideas for whether they have the weight of a novel, a short story or something inbetween. Such an understanding can save writers so much time: rather than trying to wrangle a small idea into a novel, it can become a short story, and give just as much joy.

 Do you write any short fiction? Do you enjoy it or prefer to write longer works? What writing are you working on at the moment?
Have a lovely day! <3

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  1. I've dabbled in short stories more in recent years, and while I don't think I'm super good at them, I have enjoyed writing them. You've got great points here.

  2. I prefer writing novels, but I love writing short stories too!!

  3. I need to write more short stories. I find they really help improve my writing.

  4. I've written some flash fic! It's definitely taught me how to be concise and really choose powerful language. It's definitely worth trying as a writer.

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