Three reasons to enter an anthology/write short stories
This question was asked, and it was asked at a good time because I was wondering what I should write about: I write novels, so should I even write short stories for contests or is that a waste of time?
The answer is definitely, and the answer to entering contests is MOST DEFINITELY!
I’ll give you three reasons for each. Three, but there are many more.
Why should I write a short story if I write novels?
- Practice compression
Short stories require a writer to get their point across quickly. It requires the main elements of writing to be established in context. You don’t have time to write a chapter for character development, a chapter for another character, a chapter to set up the plot . . . which you shouldn’t do in a novel, by the way. A short story requires you to compress an entire idea in 7,500 words or less. This is a great way to improve your descriptive writing (because you have to get multiple things out there in your story at the same time if you want to accomplish your goal). It’s also a great way to understand the idea of an outline. Outlines aren’t popular in writing because people like to write as their brain explodes. The latter is the most common way to write. Outlines come in all “shapes,” though. A short story is one of them. If you know what you want to happen and it changes along the way (also common), that’s fine. But, a short story can get an idea on paper quickly before you start that long, slow path to expansion.
- Save future book ideas and practice for query writing!
It’s difficult to write down an idea for a later book only to forget what that short paragraph meant. You can write down a little about your idea so you can use it later, but you might not always remember what made it such a good idea. A short story could contain all that great stuff you wanted in there, but it will basically provide a great synopsis-ish summary that might serve you well when you do get to it. Also, if you manage to fit your idea in the length of a short story, you’ll be able to compress it even more when you write your query by looking at the important things you kept in those 7,500 words.
- Writing different forms makes you a better writer
Writing flash fiction, short stories, novelettes, novellas, and novels will help you learn a lot about writing. Flash fiction teaches you a lot about the power behind an idea or theme. Short stories teach you a lot about character development and meaning and climax. You learn a lot from each one of these, but they require something more to be great because of their length, and that’s something you can only learn by writing them. And, learning those things will make you a better writer.
Why would I enter an anthology?
- Build your portfolio
No matter what you typically write, being published in an anthology makes you an author, and you can add that to your portfolio. The more you participate in anthologies, the more you can add to your bookshelf and give to your readers. It gives you something to talk about and advertise, and it’ll be great marketing practice for when your first novel hits the shelves. If you already have a novel, it still builds that portfolio and will give readers something new from you. It’s also a great bit of encouragement. 😉
- Might learn something new
Many anthology competitions offer feedback whether you win or lose. Some even have workshops (like the AT anthology, which I’ll talk about below). These types of competitions are almost sure to require a fee, but what’s a few dollars for a good lesson? Even if you don’t make it into the anthology, you get a lot out of it! Any great writer is a humble writer, which means they don’t think they can stop learning. You can always improve, and what better way than to get feedback on something like a short story? Write better short stories, and you’ll write better, period.
- It’s humbling
Some writers only write short stories, and they put their heart, soul, guts, and something I don’t have into it. There are some incredible short-form writers out there. When you lose in a voting contest, you can feel one of two things: pain or humility. Please feel humility because I can guarantee you there will ALWAYS be a better writer. You’re not the only one. There’s a better writer than everyone. And there’s no apex because the “best short story writer,” whoever that might be, is not as good as the best poet, who isn’t as good as the best novelist, and so on. It’s all writing in the end, isn’t it? So, when you’re beat, read that sucker and read in awe of the masterpiece that is usually the deserving winner. Learn from it. Always learn. Feed off the juices of its awesomeness. And, realize that you might not have won this time, but there are many more stories to write and many more things to learn and many more anthologies to enter.
Now, what anthologies are there? Short story contests? Tons. You can look on Google and find hundreds. AT will open submissions for the next anthology in June, so check out the website to learn more.
Otherwise, look on Google. Writer’s Digest has competitions, The Write Life has competitions . . . there are plenty of options. But, I’ll let you find them because there are fantasy-specific contests, romance-specific, poetry contests, songwriting contests . . . endless. There are tons. Go look!