It’s been decades since writers could make money writing short stories. Even then in stories’ heyday it wasn’t especially lucrative. Writers writing for pulp magazines had to be prolific to survive. Several writers have asked me: “Should I write a novel, or a short story?”
“Should I write a novel, or a short story?”
Short answer: write a short story. You can always turn it into a novel later:
I recently completed a short story that I could easily turn into a novel. The story has three main characters. We meet another couple of characters, and we hear about several other characters.
Without bending my brain too much, I could easily expand the short story. I’d just need to give the main characters more scenes with each other, and with the minor characters too. Everyone has an agenda, so the all the characters’ conflicts could be developed.
I’d need to add many scenes. We looked at the number of scenes in short stories, novellas and novels. Currently my short story has seven scenes.
Kindle Unlimited — a “market” for your short stories
I’m publishing my writing journal each day, and wrote about Kindle short stories this morning. I mentioned Kindle Unlimited: “Readers can download ten ebooks at a time. Why not download a short story? They can finish a story quickly.”
Update 2018: short stories are very popular, and part of the reason is Kindle Unlimited. You can read a short story on your phone, anytime, anywhere.
Use short stories to gauge the market: consider a story market research
I’m not taking on any new fiction ghostwriting projects. I’m completing the projects I’ve agreed to do. Next year, I’ll be focusing on fiction — short stories, and novels.
Before I write a novel, I’ll test the market with a short story. If the short story gains NO interest, that’s useful to know. It’s never been possible for authors to figure out what will sell before they invest weeks and months in novels.
An example. I’ve been thinking about a series of historical mysteries. Before I start the first novel in the series, I’ll publish a long short story on Amazon. If the story sells, then it’s worth writing the novel.
Ideas are easy. Writing a short story is easy, when you compare it with writing a novel.
So, to sum up: should you write a novel or a short story? Write a story first. Publish it, and see what happens. You can always turn it into novel later, or my preference — write a novel set in that world, if the short story sells.
You can never guarantee the success or otherwise of any project. Short stories can give you a hint of what might be successful.
Stuck on a novel? Publish it as a short story
One of my students hit the wall in her novel. That often happens. However, she was totally dispirited. I looked at what she had, and suggested that she could turn her unfinished novel into a short story. All she had to do was insert a scene at her current midpoint, and write the ending. She did. It’s selling. 🙂
Updated: January 31, 2018
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