A story whose plot (beginning, conflict and resolution) is told in a minimal number of words. Often a short story involves some kind of twist at the end (though this isn’t necessary). A short story can be any genre.
How short is a short story?
A short story is generally a story of no more than 10,000 words. Most short story competitions will ask for stories between 1,000 to 3,000 words on average. Anthologies may ask for short stories up to 10,000 words.
Why write a short story?
1. They’re a great exercise in concise writing. A smaller word count to write a story means ensuring your writing is as tight as it can be.
2. It’s a great way to explore other genres. Because many short story competitions and anthologies ask for you to write to a certain theme, they can push you out of your writing comfort zone to try something new. You might even find you enjoy writing in a genre you never thought you would write.
3. It’s a great outlet when you need a break from/are procrastinating on your novel.
4. Some competitions and anthologies will pay you if you win/your story is accepted. And even if the payment is only minimal you are getting your work out there which is exciting in itself.
5. It’s good practice for when you start submitting your novel. You won’t be accepted in every anthology and you won’t win every competition, so you will become more accustomed to rejection, but also keep trying. It’s encouraging when a piece does get accepted and validates that someone does think you can write (other than your mum or significant other). Those published/winning pieces can also look good when mentioned in the bio section of a query letter (as long as the publications/competitions aren’t too obscure).
There are lots of great anthologies/competitions out there for every genre you can think of (try googling). I like to keep a list of anthologies/competitions currently seeking submissions (along with the due date). I don’t always get inspiration or time to submit by the due date, but I keep the list handy in case I do get the time or inspiration to write something.
Coincidentally, May is a monumental month for me in terms of short story writing as I have had not one, but two debut stories released (twins!). The launch of Australian Literature: A Snapshot in 10 Short Stories (with my story ‘Angel Blood’) took place at the end of April and just became available on Amazon. At the start of May the charity anthology 100 Stories for Queensland (with my short story ‘A Penny for a Wish’) was launched and is now available on Amazon as well (in fact as I type a chart rush is taking place and 100 Stories for Queensland has shot up the bestseller list from #444,000 yesterday to #1,121 this morning on Amazon US – raising lots of money for Queensland flood victims).
The Australian Literature Review is currently running a short story competition (with 2 days left to enter). They are also calling for submissions for a comedy anthology (submissions due by 30th September). Keep an eye on them because they often run short story competitions and put calls out for anthologies.
If you’re interested in supporting a worthy cause, and reading some fantastic short stories in a variety of genres, consider buying a copy of 100 Stories for Queensland as all profits go towards The Premier’s Queensland Flood Relief fund. And as an added bonus, if you live in Australia or New Zealand, Amazon UK currently have free shipping to Australia and New Zealand for orders over 25 pounds.