Exploring the Craft

Writing Successful Short Stories in 2022

Typing - writing short stories.
Photo by T. S. Wulandari on Unsplash

This is not the post about writing short stories I had planned. Several months ago, I thought I had a handle on each type of short story that can be written today and sold in today’s markets. I was sure how writers should approach writing these stories. But I’m less certain about any of it because I don’t write for all potential markets in all the forms.

Short Stories and Short Fiction

The term short stories has been morphing and is being overtaken by the term short fiction. The difference is subtle, and yet significant. Short fiction encompasses more. Yet, aren’t stories the same as fiction? Yes, but here’s what seems to be different. Especially in the realm of self-publishing, novellas and novelettes are being included in short fiction. And often they are described as short stories. Much like what happened with the term blurb, which self-publishing uses to mean a book description, the traditional usage of short story is no longer valid.

Thus, talking about short stories has become more complex. Magazines, ezines, and anthologies have specific guidelines listed for length, payment, and genre. Writers must adhere to them if they hope to have a story accepted. These markets usually also describe the types of stories they seek. Often they are looking for high literary quality, even for speculative fiction.

Also, serial markets, like Vella, Wattpad, Tales, and Radish, have specific rules on length, content, and payment, but only by investigating what’s popular on each platform can a writer decide what type of story to submit.

Likewise, short books (novelettes and novellas) published independently are similarly free of gatekeepers and only need to satisfy the marketplace of readers within a genre. Or, another way to look at it is, the readers are the gatekeepers.

Reader Magnets are entirely up to the writer. Whatever story and whatever length the writer thinks will entice readers to read a full novel, or sign up for a newsletter is what’s required. Only trial, error, and experience can tell a writer what they should do.

The Only Advice for Writing Short Stories

What I can say is, research and understand what a given market (magazine, ezine, anthology, serial, short book, or reader magnet) needs from a story. This isn’t new. There are just more choices. Each has different requirements. It takes more research.

A writer can always sit down and write the stories of their heart, then figure out where to place them. But it is more efficient, for the working writer, to decide which market they intend to place the story in before they write. Ensuring the right elements make it into the story. It means writing to market by understanding which markets are for which stories.

Episode 12: Who’s the Imposter?

The Time is Right
The Time is Right
Episode 12: Who's the Imposter?

Are You a Creative Fraud?

Some refer to this as Imposter Syndrome, but that can be a serious condition, and while it doesn’t have an official diagnosis, psychologists treat it seriously. Untreated, the effects can be devastating. If you believe your condition is serious or chronic, seek a professional therapist.

What we’re talking about are the feelings creatives get periodically where we believe our work doesn’t stand up to that of others or the vision we set for ourselves.

Feeling like a Creative fraud.

In this episode, John and Kevin discuss the times they’ve experienced this and what they’ve done to cope with and get beyond these periods.

Resources Mentioned:

Skill Share Guide: Creative Imposter Syndrome: How to Beat Feeling Like an Artistic Fraud

Time Article: How to Deal with Imposter Syndrome

APA Article: Feeling Like a Fraud

Psychology Today Article: Imposter Syndrome

An Introvert’s Guide to Beating Imposter Syndrome


Book Recommendation: Wonderbook

Jeff Vendermeer
Illustrated Edition 2018
ISBN: 978-1419729669

This week’s fantasy and speculative fiction craft book is Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer. If there was an encyclopedia about how to write fiction, this is it – and it’s illustrated.

Wonderbook is probably not a book you’ll read from beginning to end but one you’ll refer to time and again for advice on a specific aspect of the craft, like an encyclopedia.

The first section is a look at Inspiration and the Creative Life followed by the Ecosystem of the Story, Beginnings and Endings, Narrative Design, Characterization, Worldbuilding, and Revision. But this isn’t just Jeff Vandermeer telling you how to write. He supports the lessons with advice, essays, and spotlights from the best authors in the genre, people like Ursula K. Le Guin, Karen Lord, Kim Stanley Robinson, Neil Gaiman, Lauren Beukes, and many others. There are also exercises and prompts.

The nature of this book and its illustrated layout is best presented in print. It’s a large format paperback and deserves a spot on your writing desk.

Book Recommendation: Steering the Craft

Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story
by Ursula K. Le Guin
ISBN: 978-0544611610
Mariner Books; Reprint Edition 2015, trade paper

Ursula K. Le Guin was a master of the craft of writing speculative literature. She was also a master of writing about speculative literature through her collected essays.

In Steering the Craft, she is again a master; this time on writing advice. She gives aspiring and professional writers useful advice through instructional essays followed by exercises. She used many of the essays and exercises in classes she taught and workshops she led.

This is almost a writer’s workshop contained in a single book. Her chapters on Point of View and Indirect Narration are some of the best and clearest writing advice in any book on writing.

Steering the Craft is written for writers of any genre. But for speculative writers, Le Guin’s celebration of imagination comes through. It should be a tool in the toolbox of every writer.