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Is it better to write a short story before writing a novel?

This is one of those questions that simply does not have a yes or no answer. Some novelists have never written a short story, some have written hundreds. And there are advantages and disadvantages to doing both. Some people advise that getting stuck in to your novel straight away is best, if that’s what you really want to do. After all, short stories and novels are two very different kinds of writing meaning that what you can learn about novels from writing short stories is limited. Others think that you should spend time perfecting your craft on short stories before diving into a full length novel. So, below is a list of some of the benefits that can be gained from writing short stories – read through them and decide if you think they are worth the time and effort required.

Why write short stories?

Short stories can offer you a number of benefits that can help when you start to write your novel. They can:

1. Teach you how to keep your writing concise.

The word limit of a short story forces you to be frugal with your writing. You’ll learn how to cut out the waffle and get straight to the point. Once you’ve mastered this habit, you’ll apply the same principles to your novel writing which should produce a punchy, captivating page-turner. The worst kind of novel is one that’s 250,000 words long when, with the waffle removed it would have been only 50,000!

2. Editors are more likely accept a short story.

Editors, and readers alike, are far more likely to take a chance on a short story from a novice writer than they are a novel. This is understandable as novices have no proven track record to convince the magazine that they are worth a chance. And it’s no big deal if they decide they don’t like your story, as you’ve not spent years writing it! Alternatively, if they likes your short stories and accepts them regularly, they are far more likely to accept a novel from you.

3. Build up a loyal readership.

Once you start to get a loyal following for your short stories, you have an audience that’s probably waiting with baited breath for your first novel to appear. You can be fairly certain that those who enjoy your short stories will also enjoy your novel and will be ready to pay for it as they are already familiar with your writing style. You could even ask your fans if they’d be interested in reading a novel, should you choose to write one.

4. You can find out which genre you like the best.

The nature of short stories allows you to try your hand at lots of different writing styles and genres. You can test the water to see which you are good at and which your readers like the best.

5. They are quicker to write and quicker to sell.

In this era of self-publishing and e-books, it may be prudent to write short stories to earn a crust for yourself while you concentrate on your novel in the background.

6. Short stories can morph into longer works.

If you have a short story that proves to be particularly popular, you can always expand it into a novel. Or, at the very least, use the characters and basic plot as the foundation for a longer piece of work.

If you’d like to have a go at Novel and Short Story writing we have a course that specializes in these two topics. And, as all our courses come with a 15-day trial period, there’s nothing to lose. Request your free Novel and Short Writing course prospectus with no oblgation to enrol today!

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Lizbeth Crawford"My debut novel, Hate To Love You, by Elise Alden (my pen name for contemporary and historical romance), received three offers of publication. I went with Harlequin Carina Press.

"So, thank you Writers Bureau, to which I am extremely grateful. The Novel and Short Story course gave me the tools I needed to write my first novel."

Lizbeth Crawford


Institute of Training and Occupational Learning

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