Monday, August 8, 2011

Short Story Writing

Disclaimer: I'm not an expert. There are a frightening number of others who have sold many, many more short stories than I could ever dream of. But, I have sold some. And I've done a lot of research. So I'm going to see if I can convince any of you to have a go.

The link between Minxes of Romance and short stories isn't as tenuous as it might seem. I'm not the only Minx to have been published in this form and (stating the obvious here) some short stories can also be romances.

I write short stories for lots of reasons:
  • Quick turnaround - you can write a short story in an afternoon and a sale can quickly follow. The fastest acceptance I've ever had was just two days from date of submission.
  • Fast payments - some magazines can pay within days of an acceptance.
  • They're lots of fun to write and they're the ideal outlet for all those ideas that keep me awake at night.

 And, because they're quick to write:
  • It's possible to write and submit lots of them in a way that would be hard to do with longer work. And, of course, if you have lots 'out there' the chances of a sale are greatly increased. It also means that if an R arrives, it's not the end of the world because there's always more work under consideration.
  • They give a sense of satisfaction for completing a project - and that doesn't happen as often with longer work.
  • Because less time and emotional energy is invested, it's easy to try lots of different styles and genres.

And there are other positives, too:
  • Magazines will pay.
  • Details of published short stories are great for the writing cv and for including in query letters to agents and publishers.
  • The buzz of seeing your name in print is hard to beat.
  • Womag writers are a friendly bunch and eager to help each other and I'd defy anyone not to make friends within this community.

But there is a downside (you knew there would be, didn't you?).
  • The markets for short stories in women's magazines is shrinking daily.
  • Competition is fierce and the number of short story writers is scary. Amanda Brittany has compiled a list on her blog - if you're feeling brave have a look here
  • Because of the first two points, you have to be prepared for rejections. Lots of them. On the upside, the experience will desensitise you to the dreaded R - I've had so many they barely sting these days.

So what's the best way to break into this satisfying market? Preparation is all if you want to avoid all the wasted attempts I made. Before you start writing, there are things you should do to make sure you're targetting your work correctly.
  • First stop should be Womagwriter's blog as she's done most of the research for you (how I wish she'd been around when I first started writing). On this blog you'll find details of magazines currently accepting fiction, word counts and where to send your work. Really, if you're planning to write short stories, the best advice I can give you is to follow this blog. The information you'll find is invaluable and everyone reads it - established writers, fiction editors as well as beginners.
  • When you've identified the magazine you want to write for, read lots of issues all the way through. Womagwriter has done a lot of the hard work for you, but nothing beats first hand knowledge and you'll need to learn who the readers are - who you would be writing for.
  • You'll then need to analyse the stories. Who are the main characters? What jobs do they do? What kind of situations do they find themselves in? This will give you and idea of who your own characters should be.
  • Join a critique group. There's nothing like contact with other writers to encourage and provide support. I'm a member of an online private group and we post every two weeks. This has concentrated my mind like nothing else and my output has increased considerably. I don't manage to post every time, but I do try to write at least one new short story every month and that's a lot more than I used to manage.

And now you're ready to begin writing your story...


Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Suzanne! I've often heard that the best writers learned to write short first, honing the skills that carry over into full length novels. By learning to make every word count, it makes for a better book.

Amanda said...

What a brilliant post, Suz! x

Suzanne Ross Jones said...

Thank you, Aimee. I've also heard agents take you more seriously if you've had short stories published. But I've yet to put that theory to the test.

Thank you, Mandy. Lovely of you to pop by.


Teresa Ashby said...

Great post, Suz :-)

Sally Clements said...

You're so modest, Suz - your success rate is awesome, and rightly so, because your short stories are great! Really useful post x

Maria said...

I loved this one so much I'm going to cut it out and keep it. I know it's all true because I've had a little of the ecstasy and a lot of the agony. I'm particularly indebted to you and Mandy and other members of our group because I feel my writing has improved one hundred per cent because of the crit and useful tips I get from you!

Lorraine said...

Thank you for a useful post Suz, I happen to think you're an inspiration, even if you're too modest to agree with me :-)

Lacey Devlin said...

Fab post, Suz! I bow to you and the many stories you've had published.

Caroline said...

Late blog post Suzanne sorry - but blogger has been *bad*! I write books but tried my hand to short stories to see if I could "do" them. What I love about short stories is that you type "The End" a whole lot sooner! Also the dreaded "R's" don't sting so much - lol. Caroline x p.s I'm with Sally - you are WAY TOO modest! ;o)