Whenever I’ve read advice or interviews from published authors, they’ve often begun writing short stories; which they have submitted to magazines. A part of my mind still thinks “that’s what you need to get into writing”.
As publishing credits, this is a sure sign of “someone else liked this person’s work, so it may be something worth reading”. This is more powerful if the writer was paid for the story, or if the publication it’s accepted by is thought of as better quality writing or just harder to be accepted by. As experience, sending off short stories often provides writers with a bit of feedback, so they can learn what makes a story good, and increase their knowledge of the craft.
It also gets us used to sending our work out into the world. Having planned, written, edited, send off and received a reply; I’ve now done the whole process a few times; irrespective of the outcome of that reply.
I’ve spent time making lists of short story competitions, literary magazines and flash fiction specialist publications. I’ve begun submitting pieces to some of those places.
There’s just one problem.
I don’t like writing short stories. In fact, when asked, I specifically say that I do not write short stories.
Writing flash fiction is the closest I can get to being with a character’s experience and not need to know why they are as they are. In an attempt to at least get a small amount of feedback on my writing, I’ve pushed my flash fiction to 1000 words in order to meet a few “short story” ideas, but I don’t enjoy it and I can tell it’s not my best work. But sometimes it feels like this is the only way I’ll have that edge to break in with.
Luckily, there are quite a few novel excerpt/ first chapter competitions running this year, which will allow me to continue gaining some experience of the process, and the possibility of a credit. I also have other items to write about in a query letter – how relevant one of my stories is to my job, the fact I attend a local writing group and memberships to certain places.
And I enjoy writing the smaller pieces – which I’m still happily sending out to journals and competitions.
However, in relation to my time, I’ve have to consider which is better spent: writing short stories I dislike and don’t feel like my best work, or continuing to work on my novels. When considering the number of people who will take a second look at a query, even if the writer lacks publishing credits, I think it’s safe to say where my time should be spent.