As with many writers, I dream of having more than a few bestselling novels under my belt while I’m still senile enough to recognize myself in the mirror. Writers may sit at their laptops, notebooks and in coffeeshops trying to develop a fantastic and wholly original idea for a novel or series of novels. We come up with a cast of characters, map out chapters and might even develop a series bible if we’re really feeling ambitious. We start foaming at the mouth at the idea of starting this epic and sprawling adventure.

And then it happens…

…you run…

…out…

…of steam.

Three or four chapters in you realize that that fully realized idea was only a premature birth and needs more time in a creative incubator before it’s developed enough to run rampant through the literary world. This has happened to me on more than one occasion. I’ve realized that forcing a novel hardly ever works. I’m starting to realize that some ideas are meant to be novels, and others are short stories and should only exist as such. This isn’t to say that a short story can’t eventually become a novel, but simply that you should first write it as it’s intended to be before going back to see if there’s more underneath that pile of 5,000 words. Think of it as a buffet: rather than getting excited and heaping as much as you can on your plate, sample a few of your top favorites and see if your stomach can handle more.

Short stories are a magnificent exercise, regardless of if you’ve written several novels or have just started dabbling in writing. They allow writers to release the short bursts of creativity that may be keeping them from sleeping or fully focusing on other projects. Short stories force you to cut down on excess word fat, tell a tight, contained story and shape up your writing style.  I really enjoy variety and switching from genre to genre every now and then. In the past I would bind myself to working on my novel and only my novel.

I now realize how foolish that was.

Rather than forcing my creativity to go in a certain direction, I should instead allow my creativity to force me in a certain direction. It’s not as if my novel will evaporate or die if I don’t give it constant attention, but I also shouldn’t spend more time than necessary away from it. Switching writing projects and working on projects of different lengths is like exercising every muscle in your body as opposed to only working your upper body. Ever seen a bodybuilder who obviously spent more time working out their arms and chest than they did their legs? Do yourself and your writing body a favor and give yourself a complete writer’s workout, exercising your short story quads, your poetic pecs and your flash fiction calves. Writing isn’t just a world, but an entire galaxy! Start exploring, even if the journey may be fraught with danger and failure.

Here’s a link to an extremely helpful blog entry about writing short fiction. There you’ll also finds some ways to make some money from your short stories. Now, I’ve got your attention!

You should also check out DuoTrope to find thousands of both paid and unpaid markets for your work. I use it to find places to send my other material when I’ve hit a wall or need to step out of the world of my novel for a while.

And that’s the long and short of it!

Take care out there.

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