Should You Write Short Stories First?

The “Your Questions Answered” Series


What are your thoughts on writing some short stories before you jump into your first novel?

I don’t recommend writing short stories before jumping into your first novel IF your goal is to be a novelist. Writing where you don’t want your success to be is akin to the dieter craving a chocolate candy bar but eating a container of yogurt instead.

I’ve written articles, devotions, nonfiction books, novellas, short novels, and long fiction; and I can tell you that these projects have almost no relation to one another. For one, the shorter the project, the tighter the writing must be. And the longer the novel, the more intricacies and subplots you’ll need.

Also, the markets for each type of project differ. You’ll be pitching short stories to magazines and collections. You’ll be selling novels to book publishers. Most editors will be interested in demonstrated success in what you are writing for them, not someone else. A byline in a major magazine should be mentioned and is a plus, but a well-received magazine story doesn’t necessarily translate into sales of a novel. And even though book publishers publish novellas (typically around 30,000 words), generally editors choose the top authors from their list that they want to appear in any given collection and offer them the opportunity to write a novella for the set. A writer submitting a random novella probably won’t find a market in traditional publishing. The publishers who’ll consider a novella collection sent on its own by relatively unknown authors are few; and even then, those publishers won’t necessarily buy novels from their novella authors.

Some authors are successful across a kaleidoscope of projects. However, those authors started with one book; and for the most part, have a history of success and a large fan base willing to buy any book bearing their name.

Bottom line? Write where you want your success to be.

Your turn:

What authors do you see as being successful over many types of writing?

Who is your favorite nonfiction author who wrote a novel?

For the entire series, click here: “Your Questions Answered.”

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