Monday, June 10, 2013

Why I Write Short Stories - guest post by Milo James Fowler

A detective with a price on his head... An invisible criminal with nothing to lose.
Check out Milo James Fowler's newest release, Immaterial Evidence.


Why I Write Short Stories
by Milo James Fowler
We all want to be novelists, right? Have an agent, sign a book deal with a big-time publishing house, see our work on the shelf at Wal-Mart. The American (Writer's) Dream.
But writing a novel takes time. And revising it takes a whole lot more. We need something along the way to boost our creative energy and remind us why we started writing that 300-page tome in the first place: to share our work with readers.
That's why I started writing and submitting short stories for publication three years ago. No agent is necessary, you can build your audience and compile publication credits, and you'll get paid for your work.
Some writers think they can't do both short and long fiction, that their stories are too big. But many of my favorite authors have done both: Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Isaac Asimov, Edgar Allen Poe, and Alastair Reynolds. If they can do it, so can we.
There are so many short fiction venues available: monthly and quarterly magazines, yearly print anthologies, online 'zines, and eReader publications. Writing and selling short stories is an excellent way to build a portfolio of your published work. Once you have a few credits under your belt, you'll have proof that you can sell your work to paying markets. Pay varies widely from token to pro, but there are other benefits, such as exposure. Having your story published alongside a well-known author in a themed anthology will introduce new readers to your work. In addition, once the rights revert to you, the story can be published elsewhere as a reprint, expanding your audience even further.
One of the greatest benefits to writing short fiction is developing one of the characters from your novel-length work to give the readers some insight into his or her backstory. Or, you could do something like this: I wrote 7 stories about Captain Bartholomew Quasar, sold 6 of them, then had an editor approach me about writing a novel-length adventure. I've sold other tales with recurring characters—Coyote Cal & Big Yap (weird westerns), Mercer the Soul Smuggler (paranormal noir), Charlie Madison (future noir), Brawnstone & Dahlia (urban fantasy)—and it's been a blast to learn more about each one with every story I write.
Having your short work published provides a HUGE boost in self-confidence. Spending so much time working on a novel that may never see the light of day can be demoralizing, but seeing even a flash fiction piece published can boost your morale like nothing else. And if you're looking for a community of writers struggling to make every word count, be sure to stop by Write1Sub1. We're spending the year in Ray Bradbury's shadow, writing and submitting our short fiction weekly/monthly, and we're growing in our craft along the way. Many of us write novellas and novels as well, and we've found W1S1 to be a great way to stay on track as we pursue our dreams.

Bio:  Milo James Fowler is a teacher by day and a speculative fictioneer by night. His work has appeared in more than 60 publications, including AE Science Fiction, Cosmos, and Shimmer. A San Diego native, Milo currently resides on the Pacific coast with his beloved wife, and when he's not grading papers, he's imagining what the world might be like in a few dozen alternate realities. Stop by anytime: www.milo-inmediasres.blogspot.com And be sure to check out Milo's Amazon author page: www.amazon.com/author/milojamesfowler

19 comments:

  1. I agree about short stories being a great way to explore a novel character. Most of the short stories I've written have been for that very purpose! They're not that marketable, at least for me, but it's still a fun exercise to do...

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  2. Excellent point, but I just don't get enough ideas that fit a short story.

    I could do it, but between work and working on my novels, I don't have the time.

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  3. Milo, you've certainly been very successful with your short stories. As short as my novels are, I really should try writing shorter pieces.

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  4. It's working for you, Milo. You've got about two pages of stories available for sale over at Amazon. Way to go!

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  5. Hi Christine .. great guest to have posting .. I love the sound of your books ... and Milo's reasoning does make lots of sense - though I can quite understand people will struggle with work as well ...

    Cheers to you both .. Hilary

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  6. Daring to enter the short story market is on my to do list for this year. I really enjoyed this inspiring post.

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  7. I've always had problems writing short stories. They always careen into much longer projects. I really admire people who have mastered the short story art.

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  8. I love short stories and I love being represented in short story anthologies. It's especially wonderful when I read a good review of my work that's in a collection of good writers.

    Great post.

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  9. *laughs* I've got to disagree with you, Milo. I don't want to write a novel. Was that the American part of the dream.

    Okay, okay. You know me. You know I've given novels a little dabble. But I keep coming back to the short. What I want is to become really, really good at the short form. I'll get there!

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  10. Thanks for this. I've been toying with writing short stories, and I found a lot of inspiration here. :)

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  11. I love this post! Thank you for being my guest today, Milo. I write short stories for all the same reasons. It's hard for me to be concise, and I know I've become a better writer for practicing my craft this way.

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  12. Great post. All success, Milo. Shorts is how I learned to hone my craft. I like writing them, too.

    Happy Monday, Christine.

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  13. I agree with your reasons to write short stories. Writing and publishing them has been a big boost for me. Now to find those paying markets... .

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  14. You know, I never thought to use my novel characters in short stories. I have at least half a dozen novels in various stages of "not publishable." Maybe it's time to upcycle the very characters who made me want to write a novel in the first place. Thanks, Milo. And just when I thought I knew it all.. LOL!

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  15. Short stories are my first love. I'm slowly learning how to write novels because they're more marketable - but there's something wonderful about a good short story. I really love how they're becoming more popular - my shelves are filled with collections.

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  16. This was so interesting for me to read because I've been thinking about trying my hand at some short stories. It's not something I've ever done with any success but I have some ideas I want to play with. Thanks for the inspiration and best of luck on Immaterial Evidence, it sounds awesome.

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  17. Milo - love this post! I agree with you on all the positives in short story writing!

    Seven years ago, I shoved a novel I had been tinkering with and sweating over into a box in the closet and started writing short stories and poetry. The reality was, for me, that I was homeschooling two very active children, teaching Sunday School, driving my kids to dance classes (I'm a dance mom instead of a soccer mom, but it amounts to the same driving), and I just couldn't focus on my novel.

    I could focus on one short story or one poem at a time. I could submit my work, and I could collect numerous rejection letters and a few acceptances and then get paid! Woohoo!

    Short stories and poems pulled me through a major writing slump and got me back on track for writing novel length fiction too.

    Thanks for this post, and the reminder of how important short stories are in a writer's life.

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  18. Thanks for having me over, Christine. I'm glad my rambling resonated with so many fellow writers!

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  19. Great post! I was becoming pretty demoralized with my long fiction so I started writing short fiction as a way to boost my morale and it's worked better than I thought it would. I think in the long run it will help my long fiction too as I learn to write tight prose. It nice to have writing be fun again!

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