A few months ago, someone asked me a simple question: Why did I write short stories?

I, like the vast majority of people writing speculative fiction, primarily write novels. That’s the end goal, right? To write wonderful novels, get an agent, and see how far you can go! Novels are big! Prestigious! And they make you royalties!

And while there are some very prestigious short fiction markets, it’s… well, still not the same as a novel. So why, the question goes, would I spend time I could be using for my novels on short stories?

Here’s the long answer.

1. Short stories can be written quickly.

OK, so let’s say you wrote a novel. It’s 80,000 words long. You’ve written it, edited it, and gotten reviews.

How long did that take? I mean, I can’t say for sure–we all write at different paces–but it wouldn’t be surprising if that took you a year.

Short stories are just a few thousand words, maybe 2,000-6,000 on average. That’s, what… a chapter? You could write that in a few days.

2. Short stories can be published quickly.

When I queried agents last year, most of them took between 2-6 months to respond. And that’s just for the first request! They want the partial? That’s more time. They want a full? That can take months! Agonizing, exciting, wonderful, terrifying months!

Publishers aren’t fast, either. Even the extremely fast small press that published Justice Unending took ~4 months between the contract and publication.

Short stories are fast. There are no “fulls” or “partials”–you send the complete story to the market when you submit. And they’re fast! Many places respond in a matter of weeks, and most reply in under 3 months.

3. Short stories can be a big self-esteem boost.

Let’s face it: it feels nice to be published. There’s nothing quite like knowing that someone likes your work. They got 200 submissions, read them all, and decided they wanted to publish yours. How cool is that?

4. They’re easy to do in between novels or drafts.

Do you let drafts rest before you go back to them? Do you take a breather after finishing a novel? Are your beta readers reading your draft, and you’re not quite ready to jump into something new?I personally find it very hard to write back-to-back novels. So what do I do with those moments? I write short stories. Maybe I can test ideas for new novels! Or try a new world! Or just write in a genre I usually don’t play with! Who cares? I can just take a few weeks, dash something out, and then get back to work.

Basically, short stories are an excellent way to get:

  • That nice “I completed a project!” feeling
  • Lots of responses from markets
  • Publications credits

… in a much faster time frame than you would with novels. And if you schedule your time right, they don’t even get in the way! You can write your novels and fit short stories in between. And with a stable of 3-4 stories, you can have multiple stories out for submission for months.

For me, it’s absolutely been worth it. And depending on how you write? Maybe it’ll help you, too.