You may not think very short stories aid in the writing of a complete novel, but they’ve helped me write three books over the last three years. In my previous post, I mentioned very short stories, and how they not only help develop your characters and novel, but lead to new ideas and opportunities. In today’s offering, I wish to elaborate on this, and explain how and why I do it.
You see, a lot of people (maybe you’re one of them) consider short stories as those things that appear in literary magazines. You have a little idea, write a very short story about it, and submit it in the hope it’ll pay $50. Well, yes, you can submit very short stories to such places, and if you own a very short story you’re proud of, why not.
BUT, this isn’t what I do, and this isn’t what this post is about.
I write very short stories to better understand larger volumes of work, their characters, and their journeys. They also lead to new ideas and opportunities, and in today’s self-published age, this is BIG news for you. After all, some people are making lots of money from doing it.
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INTRODUCING MY VERY SHORT STORIES
I have three novels to my name: Beyond Parallel, Tick to the Tock, and I Unlove You (my current project). Each one has a very short story (or collection of very short stories) that accompany it. They are:
- TALES FROM A TINY THAI TABLE (a very short story set the night before Beyond Parallel)
- ONE DAY IN SEPTEMBER (a collection of six very short stories set the day before Tick to the Tock)
- THE LETTERS OF AUSDYLAN & BEATRICE (an ongoing series of letters that takes place now)
This doesn’t tell the entire story, though, because these are the short stories you can download and read. I also own a collection of very short stories in my notes, that help develop characters, ideas, and better understand the larger tale on offer. Before writing, I always approach things like this, because crafting a complete novel is tough, and the better you understand everything, the easier the journey.
After thinking about my very short story writing, and how I approach it, I’ve come up with 3 Important Aspects that bring numerous benefits. Let’s do this, shall we?!?!?
1: UNDERSTAND YOUR CHARACTERS BETTER THAN YOURSELF
When planning my second novel, TICK to the TOCK, I knew Dante (the lead character) would lead the way. However, the characters around him played massive roles, too, and one guy in particular stood out in my mind.
Wilbur Day was a guy I couldn’t wait to write about, but boy-oh-boy did he offer a few curve balls.
“Hmmmmmm,” I pondered. “How to get in the mind of a sociopath without turning into a sociopath myself?”
Putting all my other planning and research on hold, I spent a couple of afternoons writing very short stories told from Wilbur Day’s eccentric POV. Yes, Tick to the Tock is told from Dante’s perspective, so delving into another character’s mind offers potential issue. But Wil plays an important role, too, as does Ethan and Dani.
When starting a big project like a novel, it’s easy to lose track of the smaller details. After all, smaller details are for the editing process, and your initial focus should remain on your main character, yes? Maybe… but how often do you read a story where the secondary characters are just as important in the plot’s journey as the main character is?
I come across this all of the time, in fact, I do in most books I read.
Writing a few very short stories from your other characters’ perceptive shines new light on your story.
- It immerses you in their mind, so you better understand who they are
- It’s easier to develop their actions and mannerisms, and all the small details that make or break a story
- You see your main character from a new point of view
- You see the entire story and journey ahead, with new eyes
A very short story may seem like fluff, but it’s one of the most important aspects of my writing process. Without them, I don’t understand my characters, and I certainly don’t dream about them and know them better than myself.
Don’t worry, you still have lots of refining to do during the editing process, but the better you know ALL your characters in the beginning, the easier life is further down the line.
And I should note that it was these very short stories about Wilbur that spawned the idea for One Day in September. I didn’t see it coming, but once I created a few short tales, I desired more and more, and to delve into Ethan’s mind, and Dani’s, too. I suppose what I’m saying is this: once you write a very short story or two, an endless amount of opportunities await.
2: AVOID THE DREADED INFO DUMP
“It kind of goes on… and on… and on… doesn’t it?” said everyone all the time during the early drafts of BEYOND PARALLEL (my debut novel)
Have you gone through this stage of writing, too? To an extent, do you still do it? Of course you do. When starting a new novel, a million ideas crash around your mind, and you need to put them somewhere. This is what a first draft is all about, after all, but my-oh-my does it cause issue further down the line – if for no other reason than it places your editor into a suicidal state.
INFO DUMPING… a dreaded term I came across far too often in the early days. So, how do very short stories help conquer this novel-destroying issue? Well, when you write a very short story, it’s often for your eyes only, or, at the very least, not attached to the main novel.
For example, when writing Beyond Parallel, I crafted a killer opening that I loved, and that introduced you to the characters before the chaos kicked in. The problem I had was, people kept saying how slow it was, and how I seemed to cram too much ‘tell‘ and background info into a few short pages.
“Should I create a prologue?” I asked. “Or split Chapter 1 into a few sections???”
“Hmmm, maybe… but you may bog your story down, which is…”
“The last think I want…” I said, sulking and throwing my arms in the air.
And so, I transformed this opening into Tales From A Tiny Thai Table. At first, I didn’t know if I’d share it with anyone, or offer it as a free PDF, or publish it on Amazon. None of this mattered, because its sole purpose (initially) was to info-dump the heck out of things.
- Share Dante and co’s backstory, and how they got to here
- Throw my ideas down on paper, with no worry of bogging down the flow
- Provide their past, and their feelings, and a whole host of info that may or may not be of interest
Of course, as soon as I began writing this very short story, I decided to share it with the world. That’s what we writers do, after all, right?
As such, I tinkered and refined, so all the boring info dumping evaporated into thin air. BUT, this very short story provided me a platform for important ideas and information, without bogging down Beyond Parallel’s beginning (arguably the most important part of any story).
Whether you share or publish your very short story, is unimportant. All that matters in the initial instance is, it allows you to get your ideas down on paper, tell tell tell, and info dump without a care in the world. We all need to do it, and very short stories provide a way to get it off your chest without destroying your novel.
Now, how can you resist something that makes so much sense?
3: GET CLOSER TO YOUR READERS & WRITE MORE BOOKS
Writing very short stories have made me a better writer, it’s as simple as that. Not only do they provide the above benefits, but writing a very short story requires different skills to writing a full blown novel. And, the more skills you have, the better!
But, we live in a crowded age where hundreds-of-thousands of books are published each year. If writing a novel is hard, finding people to read it is damn near impossible.
Invisibility keeps me up at night, and I’m sure it does you, too. As modern day writer’s, we need to develop relationships and close connections with readers, and the more books and stories we offer, the better our chances of creeping into their hearts.
You may not wish to publish all of your very short stories (I don’t), but I’m sure you’ll share many of them.
- Sell Them Online for $.99
- Create a Perma-Free Book on Amazon
- Gather Emails
- Share on Social Media
- Craft a Serialised Series
As writers, we’re creative individuals, so it makes sense to think outside of the box. There are no rules, and as soon as you write a few very short stories, you’ll have the ammunition to test, tinker, and try numerous campaigns.
Shortly after structuring I UNLOVE YOU, I came up with a little idea that excited the heck out of me. In a bid to learn more about the story’s to main characters (Aus and B), and to create a regular connection with readers in the long lead up to publication, I developed THE LETTERS OF AUSDYLAN & BEATRICE.
Every few weeks, I publish a new letter for free, and share it on this site, Medium, my newsletter, and social media. There’s no cost to readers, and they get to learn about Ausdylan and Beatrice NOW – months before the book comes out.
At some point, I’ll create an anthology of all these letters, and maybe sell them on Amazon. Or, maybe I could be more creative, and print all of these letters out, shove them in a shoebox, and sell limited edition gift sets – or use them as a creative giveaway.
With serialised fiction proving ever popular, and very short stories providing added income to writers across the board, the possibilities are somewhat endless. In the end of the day, your job as a writer is to write stories, connect with readers, and keep them coming back again and again. This is damn tough, and a few very short stories creates quite the momentum.
Speaking of which, let’s look at a few writers killing it in this regard…
TODAY’S VERY SHORT STORIES = BIG MONEY
Can you actually make money from very short stories? I won’t lie, it’s as difficult to make money with them, as it is with your novels. There’s no easy fix, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone write a very short story with only money in mind.
Saying that, there’s plenty of potential these days, and whether it’s a standalone series, an extension of an existing book, or a simple story you just have to get off your chest, people are making money from their very short stories.
Self Publishing’s very own king of the castle, Hugh Howey rocks it out with several very short stories.
Head over to Amazon and search his author page, and you’ll soon see what I mean. Standalone very short stories like GLITCH and SECOND SUICIDE ride high in the paid charts, providing Hugh added income, and a platform to share short-and-sweet ideas.
He collaborates with other writers, too, and creates short spin offs from his uber successful Wool Series.
We’re not all Hugh Howey, with his legions of rabid fans, but we are all creative, and posses the means to give it a go 🙂
Author of the popular Divergent Series, Veronica Roth jumped outside of the box rather early in the process.
Initially, she was going to share her trilogy from the mind of Four (the main male character in the book). In the end, she used Tris’ POV, but it didn’t stop her from sharing a few very short stories with her eager readers. Well, they ate it up, and soon Miss Roth wrote more and more of these very short stories from Four’s manic mind.
A quick search on Amazon shows there’s much more to read beyond the Divergent Series. Whether it’s the complete edition of VERY SHORT STORIES, or each individual offering, Veronica leads the way with added value to her readers
Another self published superstar, Colleen Hoover interacts with her readers better than most. Simply put, she’s aces!
She doesn’t seem to make a killing with her very short stories like Hugh and Veronica, but she does take the same approach to extend her books, provide a new insight into popular series, and, most important of all, CONNECT with her fans.
Take KISS, for example, a very short story told from a different POV, that offers her fans an insight into a character they love, and a new angle into the series they adore. Rather than write a stand alone short, though, Colleen collaborated with other writers to include it in a larger body of work. Impressive, no?!?
There you go, my loveliest of cool cats.
Very short stories hold many possibilities, and although you may or may not make a killing like Hugh Howey and Veronica Roth, you can capture emails, you can develop your relationships with your readers, and you can improve as a writer and learn more about your larger volumes of work.
When I write a very short story, I do so with several things in mind:
- What can I learn?
- How can I develop my story and myself?
- Will this become a future series?
- Can I earn some money?
- Or lots of free downloads?
- How will readers interact with such a story?
- What journey can I take the characters on?
In the end of the day, you can get as much out of a very short story as you’d like to. The opportunities are there, and I suggest you take them with both hands. This is what I’ve done in event years, and I’m glad I have.
Do you use very short stories to rock your writing world? When was the last time you wrote a very short story? Please get in touch and share your thoughts, and if you have any questions, ask away. I await you on FACEBOOK and TWITTER, so don’t keep me waiting 😉
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