How can writing short stories work for you? Six ways

By Carol / May 30, 2014 /

What’s next for my writing? With my novel Go Away Home set to publish in July, I’ve been thinking more and more about where to turn my writing energy next. Short stories have come up with increasing frequency. As if to urge me along, Julie Glover offered “6 Reasons to Write a Short Story” over at Writers in the Storm.

If you’re already writing short stories, what has your experience been? What are the benefits? Have they been a gateway to longer works? Or are the shorter genres your destination?

If you’re a short story reader, I’d like to know what you look for in a short – what works and what doesn’t?

Here’s what Julie says:

6 Reasons to Write a Short Story

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My Sister's Demon, paranormal fiction by Julie Glover, @julie_glover

As a novel reader, I always believed I was meant to write full-length books. Yet I find myself entering the self-published market with a collection of short stories instead.

I wrote the first one on a lark—merely a story premise I wanted to get out of my system. But I liked the result so much, I started another. And then I got hooked, eventually completing six young adult paranormal shorts.

6 reasons you might consider writing a short story:

1. Writing short stories hones your skill for writing lean—a skill that will help you craft more effective scenes in a novel.

 Click to read the rest of Julie’s reasons.

And I’d love to hear your thoughts on short stories here. Comments?

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  1. Tracy Lee Karner on June 2, 2014 at 9:12 am

    Hi, Carol — I found you through Shirley’s blog today, and am looking forward to reading both your books.

    Short stories? I like the idea of them, and Julie’s reasons are all good and sound, but honestly, I don’t often find myself enthralled by a collection of short stories. Perhaps it’s because I resist the fast-paced life and generally wish for more development in the characters and plot? Or probably, it’s because so many “collections” feel entirely random to me.

    I definitely want any collection to “hang” together in a concrete way. Elizabeth Strout did a masterful job of that with Olive Kitteridge, showcasing diverse stories, characters and themes, but focusing on a single person and a single place. I recently read What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Engler, and while he is, in my opinion, indisputably a clever and skilled writer, the collection as a collection didn’t really work for me. “Jewishness” is such a HUGE idea.

    But that’s just my personal and quirky opinion–that collected stories should have a clear and reasonable concrete connection if they’re going to appear together in a book. I’m influenced by that old theater adage, “if there’s a gun on the wall in the first act, somebody had better fire the thing in the third act.” A collection of unrelated short stories by Minnesota authors, for example, or southern writers, has never worked for me. But–if there’s a group of Minnesota authors all writing about deer hunting or fly fishing or pie baking, I’d be interested.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on June 2, 2014 at 10:53 am

      Hi, Tracy. I’m glad Shirley’s blog connected us.

      Interesting thoughts on short stories. In our fast-paced world, I expect some readers look for a story they can read in its entirety in the course of a train commute or before they fall asleep at night. Others don’t click with short stories for just the reasons you mention.

      I loved Olive Kitteridge and didn’t realize it was short stories until it came up in our book club discussion. My memoir Growing Up Country is essentially a collection of short stories. If it reaches the top of your TBR list, I’d appreciate hearing how you think it holds together – as individual stories and as a whole.

      Alice Monroe is a short story master I enjoy and am studying now. The collection I’m reading now, Carried Away, is all about the same town/area but not the same people. Since I haven’t reached the end yet, I can’t tell yet if there will be another overriding connection. I’ll be thinking about your comments as I delve into my short story writing.

  2. Jane Pinel on June 4, 2014 at 10:51 am

    Hi Carol, I am partway through “Growing Up Country.” So far I love the sense of being there, hearing the voices of your parents and sisters, hearing the music as you prepared the chickens for the freezer, and feeling the emotions of a young child dealing with all the requirements of growing up on a farm. I think your short stories work perfectly. I love it!

    The Memoir/Biography I wrote about my mother, “Dolly: Her Story” also starts out on a farm but her feelings were more complicated as she tried to deal with her mother’s illness as more and more babies arrived. I hope you will read it as I need feedback on my use of all the POV’s.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on June 4, 2014 at 10:58 am

      Thanks for reading my stories, Jane. I’m glad you’re picking up on the sensory experience I hoped to share.

      I’m curious about how you handled multiple POVs in your book and and will look into it.

      • Jane Pinel on June 4, 2014 at 1:05 pm

        You can read a few chapters by going to, books, and type in “Dolly Her Story” then click on “memoirs” on the left (Kindle). Click on the picture of the cover and it will bring up a few chapters. Thank you.

        • Carol Bodensteiner on June 4, 2014 at 2:00 pm

          Thanks, Jane. I’ll take a look.

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