by Rebecca Douglass
- If I can learn to say it, and say it well, in 1000 words (or 3000, or 5000), I will have learned something that will strengthen all my prose. A word limit forces a writer to think about each word, as well as how each sentence is put together, and whether each sentence contributes to the story. Even a 5000 word short, let alone a 500-word flash, has no room for meandering thought-processes, repetition, or dead-end plot threads. The form forces me to plot tightly and edit carefully, and we all need practice at that (and since the stories are short, I can get more practice!). Each length tests me in different ways, which is why I practice with everything from #Fi50 (50 word shorts) to 5000-word stories.
- Short fiction allows me to play with genre. I’m not interested in writing a horror novel, or a whole book of Weird West or slightly racy romance. But 1000 words? Sure, why not? And so I learn how to do a little different kind of writing, discover a new genre (seriously, following genre mash-up prompts has introduced me to a number of genres, or at least sub-genres, I never heard of), and improve my skills.
- Short fiction is easy to submit for publication. Lots of places publish short fiction, like our own IWSG Anthologies! Almost all of them take on-line submissions, and most give a quick response, which means I can submit the story elsewhere (or take a long hard look at why it’s getting rejected) without a long wait.
- Short stories help me out of slumps and back into my novel. When life is too busy or overwhelming, it’s hard to keep up work on a large, unwieldy piece of fiction. Sometimes my writing time gets fragmented and greatly reduced while I deal with other things. But I can draft a bit of flash fiction in an hour or two, and come back to edit it the next time I have an hour. Because finishing anything is a big boost, it helps to tackle some projects I know I can complete quickly, before the next eruption of chaos.
- Getting a short story published rocks! I was totally over the moon when my story was selected for Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime, the 2017 IWSG Anthology. That was a huge psychological boost. But it doesn’t end there, because having short stories out there makes me and my novels more “discoverable.” So maybe, just maybe, writing short fiction can help me sell novels.
After a lifetime of reading, and a decade or more of slinging books at the library and herding cats with the PTA, Rebecca began to turn her experiences into books of her own, publishing her first in 2012. Despite the unlimited distractions provided by raising sons to the point of leaving home, she has managed to pen a total of 7.9 books (the 8th is due out soon).
For those who enjoy murder and mayhem with a sense of humor, Rebecca’s Pismawallops PTA mysteries. If you prefer tall tales and even less of a grip on reality, visit Skunk Corners in The Ninja Librarian and the sequels Return to Skunk Corners and The Problem of Peggy. For those who’ve always thought that fantasy was a bit too high-minded, a stumble through rescues and escapes with Halitor the Hero should set you straight.
Rebecca writes so many different kinds of books because she has a rich lifetime of experience that requires expression. She also has a short attention span—squirrel!
Connect with Rebecca here: