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with the term blurb, which self-publishing uses to mean a book description, the traditional usage of short story is no longer valid.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.