A note on this series: I'm syndicating this from my personal blog. Over here, I realize I'm preaching the the choir, but there may be benefits from writing short stories that you've not considered before. Hopefully I can be of help and inspiration. This is a 5-part series that will run all week long concurrently on both blogs. --Betsy
This will be a five part post because I started writing out all the reasons why I think writing short stories is good for writers, and it got huge.
The short form teaches you to write. I'll get into this more in another post, but for now: creative writing and masters programs all around the world focus exclusively on the short story. They can't all be wrong. Many weeks-long workshops hone short story writing skills, too... what is it you all think they do at Clarion anyway?
Many, many authors, I'm talking about the people whose names you know, and other people know, because they're on best seller lists, your Gaimans and your Scalzis and your Vaughns--and who's that guy?-- oh yeah, Stephen King, started out with the lowly short form. Speculative fiction in particular has a tradition of building careers through short story credits. I also have a good friend, a thriller writer, whose agent discovered him via a short story in an online magazine that pays its writers with a t-shirt. So even the little markets (like Electric Spec!) can be worthwhile.
So it's not only speculative fiction and it's not only SFWA-recognized markets that build careers. Any writer who says the markets have shrunk, who claims there is no place for short fiction, is not paying attention. Just go to Ralan.com and you'll find a dozen places to send any given short story. Literary markets are hanging in there. Even erotica and romance are selling tons of short fiction online.
And it pays. It may not pay a lot, but since when did we get into writing fiction to get rich? I don't know about you, but I write because I have something to say. So tomorrow, we'll focus on exploring what you have to say and learning how to say it, via the short form.