Authors often debate whether it is useful to submit short stories to open submission calls. After all, it takes effort to write, effort to sell, and the pay isn’t great. And if it doesn’t sell to the first market, you have to make it conform to market after market.
I had to ask myself this question this week. I once wrote a 5,000 word superhero short story that was turned down when the publisher chose not to proceed with the anthology. Now, I’ve expanded the idea into 17,500 thrilling words to fit a different call. That will be a difficult length to sell if it is rejected. But I enjoy short stories and there are several real benefits to writing short stories.
First, to motivate writing. Story calls offer themes, guidelines, and deadlines.
Second, to generate a short story for a critique group. Getting a critique of a novel is difficult. It’s better to learn weaknesses in a small piece that can be applied in longer works.
Third, to offer moments of validation. Sales, posts, and contest wins are small moments of triumph on the path to authorship. I just received Honorable Mention for a story in Writers of the Future and that feels good.
Fourth, to provide content for a query letter. Even if your eventual goal is to publish a novel with a traditional press, short stories can help. It does no good to write something if the editor or agent refuses to read the submission. Perhaps these credits will get them to turn the pages a little more slowly.
I have seven short stories or novels under consideration with publishers right now. Writers of the Future is mailing me an Honorable Mention certificate for “Shadow Plagued” to hang on my wall.
Some weeks, that’s enough.