Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bite Sized Fiction


When I first started writing, all my ideas ran on for hundreds of pages. That changed when I woke up one morning a few years ago with a complete short story in my head. The two thousand words only took me two hours to write and polish. As I was used to slogging over the computer for months, it was a wonderful feeling to complete a story so fast. My critique partners loved the story, so I decided it was worth submitting to a magazine in the hope they loved it as well. I chose My Weekly in the UK, as I knew the magazine published romances with a touch of supernatural or fantasy.

The editor at My Weekly did love the story and bought it (much to my amazement). Not only was this satisfying in itself, I realised what a useful promotional tool short stories could be. The magazine allowed the author to include a short bio with the story, which gave the opportunity to mention published novels and include a website address.

Short stories also provide the ideal format to try different techniques. I’ve often thought of writing a book in first person, but not wanted to risk all the time and effort involved in writing a long novel in first person, only to discover it doesn’t work for me. But I’m quite happy to take an hour or two to write one or two thousand words in first person, or present tense, to see how it sounds.

Some of the magazines also encourage trying unusual techniques, such as all dialogue. The short form is the ideal place to try all those techniques you’d like to try but never get around to. It’s also so much fun! I have many ideas swimming around inside my head and instead of having to finish 80,000 words or more before I can start a new story, I can write a new one every day if each is only a few thousand words.

Try bite-sized fiction. It’s instant gratification for writers.

The first short fantasy romance I wrote, Jack’s Garden, is now available as a free read on the Dorchester Website. Find the page by following the link on my website at or from my author page on

For more details of my contemporary fantasy romance series and to read book excerpts go to


Joanne said...

I am in the process of submitting a short historical romance and am loving the 12,000 word count. Great post. Thanks for sharing!

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Helen, You've inspired me to start the short story I've been playing with in my head. And BTW I love the picture of Jack's garden.

Mona Risk said...

I never wrote a short story. I believe that it must be awfully difficult to fit all the elements of a good story in such a short space. But I agree publishing short stories is a great promo tool.

Jodi Lynn Copeland said...

Good post, Helen! I love writing shorts for the reasons you noted. It also gives me a little creative inspiration when I need it most. I haven't had much time to write these last months so when I do have time I try to write either partial scenes for my WIP, or "stream of consciousness" write a short story which is usually for my own benefit and eyes. I also went the short story format when I first tried out 1st person and it was met with success. Gotta love that! :)

Anonymous said...

I wrote a short story once. It is hard. To cram all the stuff in that you need, but not to make it seem like you crammed it in. LOL

Ami said...

I've been toying w/ the idea of a short story for awhile. I don't know if I can write short, but I'm thinking it may be time to give it a try. :) Thanks for the post, Helen!

Tarot By Arwen said...

Helen, is there any way to read that story on line? I know I read about one you spoke about that involved a cemetery (Gods, I hope that was you.) Is this the same story?

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

How nice you've found such a delightful place to land, Helen. It does sound like getting a story done and published so quickly has its merits. Thanks for the idea!

Helen Scott Taylor said...

Gosh, sorry to be so late checking in. Totally manic day!

Joanne, lots of luck with your short historical. I've writtena couple of 10-13K stories and that is a fun length to write. Long enough to get in a decent story structure.

Dawn Marie, glad to be of service! Hope the story goes well.

Mona, I think the shorts do work well as promo. I had some nice emails forwarded to me by Dorchester from people who read my free short story on their website.

Jodi, I agree that shorts are a great way to try out new things. I have written one in first person present tense that worked really well, but I can't imagine writing a whole book that way--although there are plenty out there written like that of course.

Jill, I think it depends on how short is short. The shortest I've written was 750 words and the whole concept is different from a longer story. Even 2500 words give scope for more plot. By 10K one can get in a mini-version of a normal plot.

Ami, I just like trying new ideas. I guess it stretches the brain--although mine is stretched all over the place at the moment!

Arwen, there is a link to Jack's Garden on the front page of my website. It isn't about a cemetery, but it's not far off that idea.

Paisley, I was astounded when the first short I wrote got published, but I had been writing long fiction for a while when I gave my first short a go, so I suppose I wasn't starting out cold. It is a fun different thing to try, though.

Thanks to one and all for stopping by.


morgannawyatt said...

What an insight! I never thought of the short story as a promotional tool. Great blog, by the way.