A Most Majestic Microcosm
— IN FOR THE LONG HAUL? WRITE A SHORT STORY! —
Practice may not “perfect” make, but scuba diving shan’t precede one’s learning how to doggie paddle. Thus, we’ll make a case today for trying out the “kiddie pool.” Too cool for that? Well, Faulkner, Orwell, Hemingway, O’Connor, Steinbeck, Chopin, Dickens, Nabokov, and Twain weren’t, so you must be suave.
The truth is, there’s nothing easy about writing short stories. In fact, one might argue that they require more skill, as little room for “padding” presents. As novels are to bathing suits, short stories are to thong bikinis. Weak physique? No hiding that. You let it all hang out.
Firstly, let us take a look at several short and not-so-short alternatives to tomes:
Six-Word Stories: 6 Words
Dribble (Minisaga): 50 Words
Drabble (Microfiction): 100 Words
Sudden Fiction: 750 Words Max.
Flash Fiction: 1,500 Words Max.
Short Stories: 1,500–7,500 Words
Novelettes: 7,500–17,000 Words
Novellas: 17,000–40,000 Words
Naturally, such definitions will vary by source (and we’ll just keep using short stories as a catchall), but the point remains: you don’t have to jump in the deep end before you’re ready . . . and you probably shouldn’t. What’s more, established novelists, too, may benefit from brevity. Consider the extensive reasons why you ought to simplify. We have a nice mnemonic that’ll never slip your mind:
Logic still not leaping out? We’ll happily expound:
Short stories are a wonderful way to hone your craft. It really isn’t until a project has been completed that we can fully appreciate its beauty and/or beastliness. As such, you shouldn’t wait a year to find a flaw that could be clear within a couple weeks.
Building up a following takes time, and it’s imperative to remain relevant en route. Coca-Cola may have replaced water as the best-known beverage on earth, but its ads are still running, aren’t they? Similarly, your rapport with readers requires constant upkeep. Unless you can bang out books like “King Stephen,” it’s good to ply the peasants with small tokens now and then.
For those who haven’t yet secured adulation, short stories offer an awesome opportunity to gain visibility. Just fire up a search engine and see for yourself. Countless contests are underway, and winning one may mean much more than any superficial prize. The path to publication is admittedly a rocky road, but triumph can be reached by many alleyways as well.
Got a goofy idea that you want to play around with? That’s great, but a novel’s sprawling acreage may not be the best place to do so. Crazy enough to work? Perhaps. But wild ideas are better kept in proper pens initially. Observe ’em—maybe train ’em—and you always can free ’em later.
This one is huge, as short stories force writers to accept their burden—actual storytelling—without delay. It’s amazing how many novelists meander about, searching for a story within their own pages. Sound like you? We have good news. You soon can kick your can-kicking habit. Short stories are sure to help.
Once you’re invested in a novel, there’s really no turning back. It’s like getting a pet parrot. (The thing may well outlive you.) Conversely, short stories are easy to handle. Like farm cats, they’re fine being left alone, but later on may birth a kitten destined as your dearest friend. Put plainly: paintings often are begotten by mere sketches.
Every writer has their crutch words, blind spots, and mechanical misconceptions. By working with a shorter writing sample, the Specter Staff can draw attention to these issues now and save you a future headache. Perplexed by the six-word story concept? Here’s a fine example (ours): “I dreamt . . . but hired no editor.”
Few art forms demand the patience that laying down a book does. It’s a punishing process, and there aren’t many back pats along the way. Writers may set out to share, but spend most days in solitude. They hunt and peck on old PCs, envisioning completion—someday. Dopamine reserves are stored away just like their ceaseless stories. Some can hack the lonesomeness, but many hack their work to pieces, opting not to write at all . . . or, even worse, to be hack writers.
All you need are intermittent “wins” to keep your spirits high. Us spirits recommend a nice short story. Nothing’s better.
Still confusion? In conclusion, don’t despair in bare seclusion. One exquisite truffle beats a duffel bag of cornless cob. So why prepare for disillusion? Nail a tale with fair effusion. Never count the words. Just make ’em count, for that’s your job.