5 Reasons Novelists Should Write & Publish Short Stories

1. Because it’s fun. If you don’t enjoy writing short stories, then never mind: you probably shouldn’t be doing it. But if you’re avoiding writing them because you believe that you have to write a novel in order to have a career as a writer, I beg you to reconsider.

GIVEAWAY: Suzanne is excited to give away a free copy of her young adult novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners can live anywhere in the world to win. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: Kris won.)



gadget-girl-novel-kamata               suzanne-kamata-author

Column by Suzanne Kamata, author of Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible, (Gemma,
2013) which was originally a novella published in the magazine Cicada and the winner
of the SCBWI Magazine Merit Award in Fiction. According to Kirkus Reviews,
Kamata’s latest is a sharp, unusual coming-of-age novel.” Feel free to follow
Suzanne on Twitter or Facebook.



2. Because you can reach a lot of potential readers. The average circulation of a magazine is usually much larger than the print run of a book, unless you are super famous. For instance, Ladybug, which has published several of my children’s stories, has a circulation of 125,000. That’s a lot of readers! Some of those readers (or their parents) may remember my name when they come across my books.

3. To attract agents and editors. From personal experience, I know that publishing in literary journals can lead to book deals. Several years ago, I published a short story in a literary journal I’d found listed in the Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market. Shortly thereafter, I got an email from a literary agent in New York City who’d read my story, loved it, and wanted to represent me. She later sold my first novel, Losing Kei (Leapfrog Press, 2008). More recently, I mentioned in a query to an editor of a new YA imprint that a story I’d written had appeared in the children’s and YA section of Hunger Mountain, the literary magazine produced by Vermont College of Fine Arts (which I learned about from Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market). Little did I know, she was a big fan of Hunger Mountain and had just been hired to teach at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Impressed, she responded to my e-query within an hour asking to see the entire manuscript.

(How much should an outside edit cost writers?)

4. Because it gives you something to tweet about other than your book, your book, your book, and what you ate for breakfast. You can post on social networking sites only so many times encouraging friends and family and other followers to buy your novel before they start to tune you out. But most people are happy to learn about new stories and congratulate you, and will even read them on the spot if they are provided with a link. They might decide that they like your writing so much, that they need to buy your books!

5. Because you can recycle. Although magazine publishing is ephemeral, if you retain the rights to your story, you can publish it again and again – online, in anthologies, in short story collections, and in other journals. Even if you sell all rights initially, you can usually get permission quite easily to re-publish your story in an anthology. My story “Day Pass,” which was originally published in an obscure, now defunct literary journal for adults many years ago, was recently revised and re-published in a literary journal for young adults called Sucker Literary. Same story, more or less, but a new audience!

GIVEAWAY: Suzanne is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners can live anywhere in the world to win. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: Kris won.)



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latest Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.
Buy it online at a discount.


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38 thoughts on “5 Reasons Novelists Should Write & Publish Short Stories

  1. Marie Rogers

    I knew I was writing short stories for good reasons. It is fun. You can say things in a short story more succinctly than in a novel. I have yet to reach the audiences with my short stories, but I know I will. Thanks for putting into words what I had intuitively understood.

  2. leemiyoung

    This article really helped me a lot! I also thought I needed to first publish a novel before focusing more on writing short stories. I absolutely love short stories because they help me spice up my creativity and don’t take up a lot of time. Now I know the benefits of writing them and I found my motivation again!

  3. CatdaBrat

    This made me think ….. I have won awards for short stories in writers contests, but never tried to sell any. I usually sell my nonfiction magazine articles. Maybe I should consider branching out a bit. Thanks for the article.

  4. Katie

    I’ve never been an avid short-story reader, so I have an aversion to attempt writing one myself. But it would be a good lesson in discipline – no fluff and all stuff.

  5. Patrick

    I’m only beginning as a writer, and I found that I really enjoy writing short stories. Have a 9 – 5 job as an engineer that usually ends up being more like 10 – 12 hours a day. With short stories I found that I can devote enough time to them and I can keep a consistent voice throughout the story.

    Thank you so much for the article. It’s good to know that I’m on the right track!

  6. willlyssa

    Great points! I got the same advice in a community education writing class I took, and it has been the most helpful advice yet. The process of writing a short story is much more condensed time-frame-wise than novel-writing–it’s also a great way to develop secondary characters in a novel–branch off and write a short story about them!

  7. Cela Winter

    And here I thought the Muse was just distracting me–the novel keeps being put on hold while I pursue the short story ideas She drops in my head. Nice to know that She actually has my total career in mind!
    Very affirming & interesting, thanks!

  8. Patrick

    I am just starting to write and I especially like short stories. I have a 9 – 5 job as an engineer that ends up being more like 10 – 12 hours a day, so I struggle finding time to write. I’ve found that I can keep my focus and have a consistent voice when I write a short story.

    Thank you for the article. It helped me to know that I’m on the right track!

  9. KelleySheppard

    My favorite reason is how it gives you something different to tweet. The other ones are great too, putting myself out there. Lately, I have been putting some of what I’m writing up on my blog. For me it is courage builder, getting comfy with people liking it and not liking it. Thank you for some motivation Suzanne!

  10. fictionwriterccc

    Gadget Girl sounds great. Would love to read it.

    Short stories are so hard for me to write. Maybe because I’ve only written a couple, but have written many novels. The reasons to write them are amazing, so I think I may try again.

  11. awkira

    Thank you very much for your encouragment. Those are 5 good reasons to try short stories. And I guess is might be good to get my head off “the big one” 🙂

  12. WriteInTheHead

    I wonder what her ideas are about publishing flash fiction? I’m working on a piece using the same characters as in my book, but in a different locale. And in it, the young brothers get more spotlight than they ever did in the book.

    Now all I’ve got to do is finish one or the other!

    Go Go Gadget!

  13. Corey Orthmann

    Those are some great points. I’m going to buckle down and complete some of the short stories I’ve had collecting dust motes on my hard drive and get them submitted!

  14. Haypher

    Writing a short story scares the heck out of me.
    But my daughter (at the time she was 4 years old) said to me, “what’s the big deal? You write Once upon a time and stuff in the middle part and a happy ever after.” She also said (same age), “What’s the big deal about playing golf? You just hit the ball and put it in the hole.”
    Life should be so simple ;o)

  15. Ester Shifren

    Excellent advice. I think we get so caught up in the “big” work that we forget how many of us started by writing short stories. I have short stories in drawers that could be dusted off and remodeled for publication. I am certain they can be tweaked for different markets.

  16. Mindtalk

    Good point, Red. There’s much to be said for the feeling of accomplishment that comes with actually finishing any writing task. Working on something smaller can keep the momentum going and also give you a fresh perspective when you return to your big project.

  17. Turtle8

    Before this I thought writers should make short stories was that they are easier and they great practice for novels, newspaper magazine columns, and other writings.

  18. soofy

    I like the idea of reaching a lot of potential readers, not only to gain readership but also because you never know if your story is going to resonate with someone. I think that’s just as rewarding as a high number of readers.

  19. reverenderyk

    Also, short stories are a great idea for novelists because they are finished sooner. Sometimes, while mired in a novel, it is a good feeling to finish something.

  20. hcwand

    Very good reasons because you have to do everything you can to get noticed. Marketing is a much tougher job than writing the book. Short articles are fun and often can be completed at one sitting.

  21. writeandtravel

    Writing short is great practice and a confidence booster. For years I’ve written short stories for personal reasons. When I dared to send out one of my stories to a magazine for their last thought page at the end of the magazine, I was blown away when the editor called for permission to print and pay me for it. Currently I’m in the middle of edits for my current romance novel, which at times can be daunting but writing short allows for the “way to go” boost that I need when my short stories show up in print.

  22. Lorraine Reguly

    You forgot one of the most important reasons…entertainment!

    Writers offer readers the value of entertainment each time they share they writing. For many readers, being entertained, and escaping from their reality for a short while, is important!

  23. jotokai

    One time, I found that the backstory had a better kick than the main story.

    You never know when a short story will burgeon into a novel or a novel will kick out a gem of history that begs to be told in full.

    “Really? I don’t mind you stealing my stuff, we have too much anyway, but my wedding ring?” It was a throwaway bit of tension, but it came together much better than the main story. “Well, at least I know you can keep a secret. Dang.”

    But the ones you put in, they’re great too.

  24. BE

    Suzanne, you have convinced me. As I look at my novels (long) and my nonfiction articles (long) and my blogs (often long), I think short stories would be a great change of pace. Your first reason says it all — but I read the whole thing. Thanks.

  25. lesliemillernow

    I took a ton of backstory out of my novel, and I was thinking it would make some great short stories, hopefully whetting people’s appetites for the novel. Thanks for the encouragement!

  26. Red Jackson

    These are great reasons. The one reason that I didn’t see on the list was that it usually takes less time to FINISH a short story than it does a novel. Thanks for the great column Suzanne.


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