Thinking about writing a new short story but never have the time?
Trust me, I’ve been there. I spend a lot of time there, actually.
I don’t write as many short stories as I should. I’ve been seriously writing fiction for nearly ten years now, and I’ve managed to write twenty novels. Twenty novels in less than a decade. I wrote my first book in April / May of 2010, and I finished the first draft of my twentieth book in July of 2019. I’ve been a writing machine for a long, long time.
But you know what’s a little crazy to me? In the past decade I haven’t even written twenty short stories. Since 2010 I’ve written about fifteen or so, half of which have been published in online and paperback literary journals, the other half of which are still in various stages of the submission process.
There’s a lot I want to accomplish in my second decade of writing beginning in 2020, and that starts with writing fewer novels and writing lots more short stories. I absolutely think there’s tremendous value in short stories, even though they probably won’t make you a lot of money.
Something I love about short stories is the ability to experiment.
Try a new genre. Try a new kind of character. Take a chance on something absurd or unusual. It’s a short story after all, not a novel. It’s not going to take six months or a year to write and revise. If it fails, it fails. And if it succeeds, then fantastic!
My latest completed short story ‘Walter’ was accepted for publication in the literary journal Bosque for their forthcoming issue in November. Better yet, the editors chose me as their discovery of 2019, and because of this designation they are sending me a nice little check in the mail!
‘Walter’ was something I didn’t think I had the time to write. I was busy revising two different novels and beginning to outline my new novel project for the summer. I wasn’t really thinking about short stories, but I had an encounter with a person in Portland, Oregon, that became the nugget for a story, and I simply had to do it.
So I blocked out a single week to write it… and I wrote it fast. 800 words a day for five days, and by that Friday in April I had a 4,000-word short story. The piece went through four revisions after that, eventually topping out at around 3,500 words before it went on submission.
You can absolutely write a short story like that. You can write a story any way you want! But you know what’s another way to write and complete a short story?
Write your new short story with just 200 words a day!
I’ve never actually written a novel with just 200 words a day, I could never do it like that, but I can certainly write a new story with 200 words a day. In fact, I’m doing so right now!
Over the summer I got a nugget for a new story idea, but I kept pushing it back because I wanted to focus on my novel projects. Finally about two weeks ago I figured out how I wanted to tell the story, what POV, what main character, but I still didn’t know when I was going to do it. I just started a new revision of my middle grade novel, after all, and then in early October I’m moving right into the second draft of my summer novel project. I don’t want to block out a week anymore for a new story.
So you know what I’m doing instead? Working on both five days a week! Revising a chapter of my novel, and writing the new short story. Approaching both at the same time might seem intimidating. It actually was for me at first.
But you know what makes me do both with ease? Writing just 200 words a day of the story, of course! It takes me 10 minutes in the morning. 20 at the most. 20 minutes or less for my new fiction writing of the day.
It’s so easy, you guys. Any of you can do it. All you need is 10 to 20 minutes a day!
On Monday, September 9 I began writing my latest story. I wrote the opening paragraph. Then on Tuesday I wrote another couple paragraphs, another couple sentences. On Friday afternoon I crossed the 1,000-word mark. This morning? I hit 1,600 words!
Like with ‘Walter,’ I plan for the first draft of this new story to be about 4,000 words. That means I’ll finish it on or around Friday, October 4. After that day, I will have a new completed story!
This process of writing my newest short story has inspired me to try writing six new stories a year.
I wrote one new short story in 2017, one new short story in 2018, and up until a week ago, I figured I was only writing one new short story in 2019.
But now I’ll have a second, and I already have an idea for a third which I’ll begin writing in mid-October.
I sort of lost focus on short stories for awhile, instead totally consumed by novel writing and revising. But as I move into my second decade as a serious fiction writer, I want to return to the short story form and give it lots more attention.
Who knows… maybe one day I’ll have enough good stuff for a story collection to be published!
Just remember, if you like me are itching to get back into short story writing, you don’t need to block out a week or longer to write the story, and you don’t need to block out entire days either.
All you need to do is find 10 to 20 minutes to write 200 words a day… and there’s no telling how many stories you’ll be able to write in a given year!