Why I Wrote a Short-Form Story Instead of a Novel
It was a long process, but I finally concluded that my NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) writing for 2021 would be four shorter stories of around 13,000 words each instead of the usual 50,000 words for a single novel. Of course, that earned me the badge NaNoRebel, but it gave me the freedom to write the stories I wanted to tell in a way I knew I was better suited to tell them.
I wrote three novels and a memoir in previous NaNo challenges and only published one of them. But in November of 2018, due to an injury, I could only type 13,000 words for the NaNo challenge, which became a published novella. So, I was pleased with that story.
One of the drawbacks to my writing novels is the challenge of reading them. As the story progresses, I quickly lose sight of all the character names, descriptions, and details of the settings. By the time I get to the end of the book, I’ve forgotten the vitally important reason why Jane dumped Joe on page 10 and—zap—there goes the grand climax.
A short story is much easier for me to read. I can often read one as I enjoy a cup of tea or wait for someone at the dentist’s office, leaving me the rest of my day to ponder what I’ve just read. And if I enjoy that form of reading, it’s no surprise I would choose to write in that style.
Elements of a Short Story are Important
In a novel, the author writes a complex plot with twists and turns and deposits easter eggs as they go. There is deep character development and a lengthy description of the scenes involved. When writing a short story, the writer focuses less on characters and background and gets right to the main event with little lead-in. Getting the point across is more important than showing the writer’s ability to describe the environment in detail or use exemplary vocabulary.
Instead of Margaret Atwood and Lucy Maud Montgomery’s novels, think of Joyce Carol Oats and Katherine Mansfield’s shorter stories.
GoSparkPress writes, “When writing a short-form content piece, pick one subject or theme, and just tell the story. All of the context and background aren’t as necessary.”
Francine Prose writes in Fold Magazine, “Every short story needs an intro, climax, denouement, and especially, as an editor once told me, an epiphany.”
How I Began Writing My Own Short Stories
Jesus gave us inspiring parables as perfect examples of short stories. A few characters teach us about God and deliver a moral reminder at the end or a question that needs to be answered from personal introspection.
I began reading short stories by well-known authors to get used to the style for other inspiration. Apart from Mansfield and Hemingway’s shorter stories, I recently enjoyed E.M. Forster’s The Other Side of the Hedge for the first time (that I can remember).
At first, I wanted to test if anyone would read my short stories. I thought if no one liked reading them, there was no point in writing them. Right? I saw a request for submissions to an anthology by Hot Apple Cider Books and sent off my short personal story. Soon after, I saw another request for submissions to write for InScribe Christmas Stories & More.
I was overjoyed when some of my submissions were accepted. This was a huge boost to my self-confidence as a short story writer. I also entered writing contests where the judges sent feedback on submissions to teach writers what to improve. This was a helpful way of learning my craft, and now I look forward to submitting more. Many writers of short stories send submissions to the Chicken Soup books.
Other forms of short writing pieces include devotionals, blog articles, and poetry. I’ve enjoyed learning more about writing in those styles from colleagues’ workshops and conferences. They’re a great way to connect with other Christian writers and learn from each other.
If you haven’t written short stories yet, I’d like to encourage you to try. Even if novels are your passion, a short story in an anthology or as a giveaway is an excellent addition to your writing portfolio.