5 Ways Short Story Writing Has Boosted My Productivity

Thursday, July 06, 2023

By Linnea Gradin
For many aspiring authors, finishing and publishing their first novel is their ultimate goal. Completing it promises an immense sense of accomplishment, but the road there is often long and arduous, so it’s easy to get stuck on the way. Add to that the pressure of putting everything you want to say into a single story, and the fear of the blank page can start to hinder your writing progress.
It’s for this reason (and many others) that I’m a huge proponent of the short story. Below, I’ve outlined five ways this shorter format can help you beat procrastination and become a more effective writer — both in terms of skill and routine.

1. Building a consistent writing habit

When it comes to writing, simply getting words down on paper on a regular basis is an invaluable skill in and of itself. The length of a short story feels more attainable, allowing you to actually get started.
Frequent calls for submissions are another way in which short stories can help you create a consistent writing habit. With novels, it’s easy to push things indefinitely, especially as the sheer size of the undertaking looms large. With short stories, you’re facing a smaller task and you’ll often have monthly or quarterly submissions — such as WoW’s flash fiction and essay contests, or even weekly short story competitions like Reedsy Prompts — to stay on top of. When you have some places to submit to regularly, it becomes much easier to establish part-way goals and keep up with a consistent writing routine.

2. Exploring your creativity and experimenting

The short story format also comes with the exciting possibility of exploring multiple avenues of interest. Unlike novels where you commit to a single idea over a longer period of time, each story you write can tackle something new, giving you the freedom to experiment with wilder ideas. If it doesn’t pay off, there’s always the next story.
If you’re someone who’s driven by curiosity, this is a great way to build positive associations to the writing process. When you allow yourself to follow where your curiosity leads and tell all the different stories floating around in your mind, you get a chance to push your own limits. And as you experiment with genres — from literary fiction and fantasy to horror and romance — and play with the format, writing consistently becomes significantly easier.

3. Completing arcs and finishing projects

There’s also a lot to be said for the feeling you get when you actually finish something. With short stories, you get to experience the dopamine release much more often. Of course, with novels, there’s the promise of delayed gratification to keep you going, but with shorter pieces, the finish line seems that much closer. Before you know it, you can’t wait for the next time you get to sit down and write just to experience the heady feeling of accomplishment again.

4. Honing your writing skills

The creative process is subjective, and writing a short story isn’t necessarily easier than writing a novel just because it’s shorter. The challenge of the short story lies in the fact that you’re forced to tell a complete story within a limited word count. You can’t spend pages and pages on world building or character development, so every word needs to be chosen with purpose and care. Forcing yourself to kill your darlings until you’ve boiled your writing down to something sharp and (hopefully) insightful will inevitably make you a more intentional writer.

5. Overcoming perfectionism and fear of rejection

Lastly, one of the wonderful things about short story writing is that there are so many ways to get your work published, whether in online magazines or print journals. Unlike the process for pitching your book, short stories can usually be submitted directly.
Of course, with more frequent submissions you also stand a greater chance of facing rejection. But it’s a little bit like ripping the band-aid off. It always stings a little, but after a while you start to develop thicker skin and can even start to learn from it. You were rejected but the world didn’t end, and perhaps you even got a couple acceptances, building up your platform in case you end up querying literary agents down the line. With less pressure on yourself to deliver a perfect first draft, you’ll find that it becomes easier to write without worrying about any writing flaws.
As you get more writing miles under your belt, perhaps that longer piece will start to feel more approachable. Whichever format you choose, just remember to let curiosity lead the way and you’ll find yourself longing to get back into the writer’s chair.
Linnea Gradin

Linnea Gradin is a writer for Reedsy — a digital marketplace connecting authors with the industry’s best publishing professionals and providing answers and information on all things writing and publishing related, from how to find a ghostwriter to how to make an audiobook.


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