How to Become a Better Writer: 5 Reasons Short Stories Will Help Your Craft

by | Sep 24, 2021 | Craft | 27 comments

Are you a novelist? Poet? Blogger?

It doesn’t matter which genre you specialize in, you’re surely wondered how to become a better writer. I’ll tell all of you the same thing: Writing short stories can improve your writing craft.

For those of you who are wary to spend your time writing short stories, let’s be clear: Writing short stories is not a waste of time.

It doesn’t matter if you publish your stories or not because either way, you’ll get something great out of it— becoming a better writer!

Here’s how short stories can help you become a better writer.

Table of Contents

  1. Don’t Worry About Length
  2. Focus on Scenes
  3. Improve Your Word Choice
  4. Tell Backstories
  5. Work on Your Self-Editing

5 Ways Writing Short Stories Helps You Become a Better Writer

pencil drawing of a hand writing - how to become a better writer
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1. Don’t Worry About Length

Short stories get you writing.

Before I wrote my first novella in 2013, I was honestly scared of writing fiction because I didn’t think I had what it took to write a full-length novel. I’d started and stopped so many stories when I was a kid because I was always aiming for something huge. When I stopped worrying about the word count, my first finished novella came in at 30,000 words.

That’s still a little long for a short story, but the point is this: If you’re worried about length like I was, good stories are going to go left untold.

Take it one small step at a time. I wish I would have written more short stories years ago so I could have honed my craft early on. When you’re writing, your creative juices are flowing, and you need that to help you become a better writer.

Am I saying short stories are only for beginners or aspiring novelists? Of course not, but it definitely does help those who are crippled with fear over length.

2. Focus on Scenes

One thing I’ve noticed in my writing is that when I write long-form fiction, I get focused on reaching the destination and making sure each scene is going to take me there. But when doing that, it’s easy to forget about the scene itself.

Short story writing is a little different.

While you should care about the destination, there are fewer scenes to focus on, allowing you to treat each one with special care.

3. Improve Your Word Choice

The benefit to short stories is that they’re more focused. Sub-plots are minimal, and you typically don’t need to work in as much backstory as in long-form fiction.

Does that mean you should ignore dialogue and description in long-form fiction? Of course not.

But short stories help you exercise your talents to improve your word choice skills and help you learn how to paint vivid pictures for your readers.

4. Tell Backstories

A great exercise is to use short stories to tell stories that don’t make it into your longer form fiction. Dig into your characters’ backstories, or write short stories about secondary characters.

Even if it doesn’t make it into your novel or an anthology, it helps strengthen your other books by giving you deeper insight into your characters and bringing their experiences to life.

Plus, you can always use these short stories as reader magnets, in your newsletter or in anthologies meant to build your readership.

5. Work on Your Self-Editing

Some people might argue with me, but I feel that self-editing a short story is easier than self-editing a novel.

In my experience, you’re less likely to have major plot holes, and when you can read your story in one sitting, it gives you a better comprehensive view on your story.

With fewer scenes and subplots to focus on, you can focus more energy on each scene, your dialogue and word choice. All of this helps you become better at catching inconsistencies, grammar mistakes and other story elements.

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Writing short stories can be tough. I find them more difficult than writing novels because there’s less room to elaborate on backstory or work in “clues” to the final resolution.

It’s not about cramming a novel into a shorter word count.

While you should still follow a story arc, it doesn’t mean your scenes are fast-paced. It just means there are fewer scenes that get you to the destination, and that gives you the chance to really hone your skills when it comes to dialogue, description, setting, and pace.

If you’re struggling to write short stories, a great tip is to listen to the real-life stories people tell you. These stories almost always follow a story arc with a beginning, middle and end, so it gives you a good place to start to come up with ideas that will suit the “short story” category.

Short stories are not just exercises to help you with long-form fiction. However, they can act that way when you want to improve your writing skills.

Have fun writing, and let us know in the comments below how your latest short story has helped shape your writing.