The Art and Exercise of Short Stories

Last October, I was supposed to speak at an Author Fair. My chosen topic was, The Art and Exercise of Short Stories. I was unable to attend (you can probably guess why). Recently reinvigorated by DAWG meetings, I’m inspired to write short stories again! With Spring in the air and our creative-energy levels rising, I hope to also inspire you with my TOP FIVE BENEFITS OF WRITING SHORT STORIES:

5. ALL THE IDEAS! Personally, this would be my number one reason for writing short stories. I am an idea person. All of the ideas cannot become novels. Not all of the ideas will work within the context of an existing novel. Short stories allow the freedom to delve into and complete a project. When I am distracted by a shiny new idea, I give myself permission to pursue it. I find that it doesn’t take away from the project I should be working on, but instead refreshes my creativity. It gives my ego a boost to finish something and I return to my novel-in-progress with renewed focus and energy.

4. Exploration of genres and styles. Short stories open up whole new worlds to be investigated. Maybe fantasy seems overwhelming with all of the world-building and unpronounceable names, but committing to a short story might be a fun challenge. Tighten your focus to one character accomplishing one goal. Poetry, personal essays, and flash fiction offer a variety of styles and lengths to play with. Experiment with point of view. Romance often gets a bad rap, but have you ever tried to write it? Mix it up, have fun!

3. Becoming part of your writing habit. A lot of authors are dedicated to writing daily. That can be quite a commitment until it becomes habitual. Opening a manuscript when your time is limited can be overwhelming, but focusing the few minutes you have on knocking out a short story can be empowering. A friend once called our shared prompts “calisthenics” for his writing and I believe that’s the perfect definition. A little bit at a time can amass quite a collection.

2. Submissions. Wondering what to do with all of the short stories you’re accruing? There’re plenty of opportunities to submit short stories to journals, contests, and anthologies for publication and sometimes prizes. What a great way to share your work with new audiences. Readers can sample your style and hopefully pursue more work by you. Submitting also helps connect you with other writers.

1. EDITING! Despite what I said at the beginning of the list, EDITING IS THE #1 BENEFIT of writing Short Stories. There is so much you can learn by focusing on a limited number of words to create a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end. When every word counts, you find a way to make every word count. With an emphasis on content, word selection, and tightening, your skills will grow, and they’ll transfer to your other work, as well.

I have a section on my website titled Read Me. Feel free to peruse this collection of my short stories.

The DeKalb Area Writers Group, DAWGs, is a prompt-based short story group that meets the 3rd Thursday of each month. If you are interested in joining, email Mary at

About Mary Fran Says

I am an artist, crafter, designer and writer. I enjoy working with mixed media-- applying visual and tactile manipulations to telling a story. Not a lot of market for that, though, :), so I'm focusing on short story submissions and novel completions. Yes, plural. Lots of beginnings, too many ideas, not enough focus.
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1 Response to The Art and Exercise of Short Stories

  1. Pingback: We Wish You a Memory Christmas! | Mary Lamphere

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