Why I Don't Write Short Stories

Comments: 7

A few days ago, I was asked why I don't write short stories so I can become "known" in the publishing world.

First let me say, I doubt I could write a decent short if my life depended on it. Short stories are a lot more difficult harder to write. Short stories require new plot lines and new characters for every one you write. You also have to condense the story line into a few pages at most, limiting character development, and putting a real strain on the overall story development.

I also think, if I were to become a short story writer, it may make it more difficult to morf back into a novel writer. There's a different dicipline required for each form.

A short story writer gets a reward quickly, when he/she finishes the story, then again if and when the story sells. For a novel writer, that exhiliration of having finished the project is slow in coming and the thrill of a sale even slower. But the rewards of making a sale with a novel are FAR greater than any short story writer can ever hope to achieve, unless he/she has sold a few novels first and the shorts can be combined into an anthology.

Personally, I don't have time to mess with shorts. I have two novels nearing salability. Why should I take the time to write stuff that probably won't get published anyway, and will take away from my work on my novels?

I realize, some people will disagree with me, but that's the way I see it.
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About Paul West

Paul West is a freelance writer and novelist. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Paul claims to be a "Prune Picker," though he now makes his home in Taylorsville, Utah.

You can follower him on Twitter: @PaulWWest

Published: Thursday, June 21, 2007

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  1. Very good points. Not to mention, the commonly disregarded truth that, no, you probably won't make a name for yourself writing short stories anyway, even if you do happen to sell a them to professional markets.

    Very few writers make a living, or a name for themselves this way. Many new writers don't want to believe this fact, but it's true.

  2. Novels and non-fiction books are where the money is, I think.

  3. I would agree that novelists can make a fantastic amount of money. Not all do though. I regularly visit Scott Nicholson's blog, and I have a huge amount of respect for the guy, but his novels don't exactly seem to have made him rich, and he's written a few of them.

    Off the top of my bald and shiny head, I can only think of one writer that made a name for himself by writing short stories: H P. Lovecraft.

  4. Granted, most novelists will never make any money at all. It's worse than a crap shoot. But if any real money is to be made it will be the novelist, not the short story writer.

  5. Lovecraft made a name for himself with short stories, but he also died in poverty.

  6. You're wise not to write short stories. The only real way to break out with short stories is to write several full-length novels first, create a name for yourself, and then write a short story, if that's what you'd like to do. It is rare beyond all rareness for a first-time novelist to publish a short story book. Same goes for poetry. It just doesn't happen.

  7. You're absolutely write (pun), Tristi. Thanks.