Ten Things You Can Do With Short Stories

Short stories are strange little things.  They are easy to write – but not so easy to sell.  Unlike novels, which require a lot of time to finish, a short story can be written in a few hours and ready to submit within a week – but what do you do with them then?

Ten Things You Can Do With Short Stories

  1. Submit them to professional paying magazines.  There are many paying markets out there for short stories, but this is a tough market.  It is a crowded field because so many people write short stories thinking they are easier to sell than novels, which is not necessary true.  Most high-circulation magazines use established writers to fill their editions, leaving only a few places per year for other writers.  Every magazine paying professional rates will receive hundreds of submissions per week.  Many editors keep stories for years before publishing them – so they are not desperate for submissions.  A buyer’s market.  Worth doing if you can afford the postage.  Difficulty rating 5/5.  Value 5/5.

  2. Turn them into novels. A short story can be used as an outline for a novel if you think the story can be extended without losing its focus.  Difficulty rating 4/5.  Value 4/5.

  3. Sell them yourself as ebooks.  Upload them to Amazon or Smashwords or another epublisher.  Do make the word count VERY clear to readers, though.  Anything under 10,000 words for 99 cents might make readers feel ripped off if you don’t state the length. Permanently free short stories are a good way of reaching readers, though the glut of free material available makes this harder and harder, since readers will no longer download something just because it is free.  Difficulty rating 1/5.  Value 2/5.

  4. Collect enough material for a single-author collection/anthology.  A better way to give readers value for money than the single story.  Worth doing for stories you have already sold, providing you still have the digital copyright. Difficulty rating 2/5.  Value 4/5.

  5. Use them as free samples of your writing on your blog/website.  This is easier to do than creating a free ebook. Warning: this might effect your chances of selling the short story later because publishers might consider your work as a reprint once published on-line. Difficulty rating 1/5.  Value 1-5/5 depending on the traffic generated.

  6. Submit them to competitions.  Often easier to win than you might think!  Watch out for bogus competitions.  They often don’t have a real-world address or name the judges.  Make sure a competition has been established for some years.  Also make sure the requirements of the competition are fully satisfied.  Some entry fees are ridiculously high – often as higher than the prize money – so be careful.  Make sure the prize is worth winning!  Difficulty rating 3/5.  Value 5/5.

  7. Submit them to anthologies.  It is a great way to have readers discover your short story if your story is included with the works of more established writers.  These are good paying markets, too – as long as the editor and publisher are trustworthy.  Watch out for people wanting to publish your material for free or paying royalties paid from the profits.  Some anthologies are more open to the works of newcomers than some magazines, with better rates.  Difficulty rating 4/5.  Value 5/5.

  8. Stick them in a drawer and forget about them.  Not recommended!  Get them OUT THERE!  Difficulty rating 0/5.  Value 0/5.

  9. Write them to learn how to be concise.  Short stories are an excellent tool for improving your writing craft. Flash fiction is even better.  If you can write a real story in a hundred words, writing a longer one is simple.  A short story forces you to cut anything unnecessary.  Difficulty rating 2/5.  Value 5/5.

  10. Write them as a break from longer works.  Sometimes writing a short story can be cathartic, a way of resting your mind from doing something much more ambitious in length.  For a small investment in time, you can produce something without needing to commit yourself for months or years.  After it is done, you will feel ready to continue the longer project.  Difficulty rating 2/5. Value 5/5. 

Difficulty rating: 0 = no challenge / 5 = very hard

Value: 0 = no value / 5 = very valuable

One more thing you can do: keep writing them!

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Author: John Moralee

John Moralee writes crime, horror and science fiction.

24 thoughts on “Ten Things You Can Do With Short Stories”

  1. There are some really good points in this post. I especially like #9. Writing flash fiction is excellent training and has refocused me to target my characters and the essence of my story in very economical ways. I’ve had my shorties published in various ezines, literary journals, and a few anthologies. Once I get the copyright back, I put them on free sites like Wattpad.com or storyEnet.com to stimulate more readership. Great post, John.

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    1. Thanks for the comment. Flash fiction doesn’t generate income – but it is a valuable exercise, boiling down a story into its essentials. I’ll have to check out those websites.

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  2. Love this post! I sometimes type out a short story for fun, but I always get this nagging feeling that I’m wasting my time and should be working on my full length novels. But you make excellent points! Perhaps I shall revisit the joy of short story writing 🙂 Also, re-blogging 🙂

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  3. Excellent ideas. I was always a little iffy about competitions with an entry fee. But it sounds like that’s a pretty typical thing. I always kept my short stories on the shelves thinking it was too difficult a market to break into. Mayhaps I shall reconsider now…
    Thanks for the ideas and the post!

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    1. Choosing the right competition for your story is important. Some competitions ask for “any subject” when they really don’t mean it. They want literary stories – not genre fiction – but they don’t advertise that in their information because they would lose out on entry fees for stories they will never consider for prizes. Check the kind of thing that has won in the past before submitting anything. Alas, most legit competitions do have an entry fee, which is why you need to be cautious. Good luck!

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      1. I check out the legitimacy of competitions by looking in old editions of books like The Writers’ Handbook or Writers’ Artists’ Yearbook. I have editions going back as far as 1991. If a competition is listed in my 1991 editions and it still exists, you can more or less guarantee it is genuine. The dodgy competitions are usually new, with no pedigree. Those books list hundreds of competitions. Second-hand copies are really cheap for the old ones. The newer editions are often in UK libraries. I believe they have a website now for the Writer’s Handbook at http://www.thewritershandbook.com.

        Oh – finding out what the judges like writing and reading is a great way of targeting your story to them. There’s no point in writing a detective story if the judge only likes romance, for example.

        The UK magazine Writing Magazine listed 150 competitions in the April issue. Their website is at http://www.writers-online.co.uk.

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    1. Yes – I’ve created several collections from my stories. They seemed wasted on my computer doing nothing. They could not be sold as new twice – so it was something practical I could do with them. I’ve found that you should not put them all into one huge collection of, say, 200,000 words, but break it into four or five collections of 40,000/50,000 words each. They sell just as well as a bigger collection.

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  4. Super! I absolutely agree. Sticking any writing away in a drawer serves nobody, least of all the writer. It’s better to get it out there somewhere, all the better to learn from the experience (even if it involves rejection).

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  5. Useful tips, thanks. There are also competitions/anthologies etc for flash fiction – paid or with prizes – which means it can also bring income. I believe free content, as with a blog or site, is the best long term solution to creating a public for your writing. You can monetize traffic and also direct it to your non-free writing (published books).

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