The Novel’s Shorter Cousins by Beth Carter

According to Writer’s Digest, May is National Short Story Month. There are MANY forms of short stories and I have a few favorites. I adore writing shorter pieces in between wrangling a long novel. Here are some short fiction forms:

Flash Fiction – I belong to a group on Facebook called the Friday Fictioneers. Each week, a photo prompt is posted and we are supposed to write a 100-word story based on the photo. I used to do this religiously but haven’t posted in months. It’s amazing the variety of stories and genres each person will write–all based on the same photo. I’ve kept mine and could envision creating several into a longer piece.
I encourage you to find the group on Facebook.

Novelette – This term is new to me but I know SMP author Collette Cameron has written a novelette or two. According to Writer’s Digest, these are between 7,000 and 20,000 words. I have several novel drafts and “starts” that hover around 5-7,000 words. I’m excited to try this form that’s new to me. Unfortunately, I don’t believe Soul Mate Publishing accepts novelette submissions. Yet. 🙂

Novella – Novellas are the shorter cousin to novels. They range between 20-50,000 words and are again rising in popularity due to hand-held devices which make shorter reading while on the go a popular genre. I’m actually working on my first novella which is set on an island. I’m at 12,000 words and hope to double or triple my word count soon. I’m excited to try my hand at this.

Short Stories – Think anthology here. I’m in four anthologies and most of my stories are between 1,500 and 3,000 words. One of my favorite stories is in an anthology called “Bad Hair Day.” How fun is that? I plan to rewrite my story to at least novelette size. I have another one that’s a YA and a little spooky. I may try to embellish that one as well. Be sure you have the rights back before submitting previously published work.

Six-Word Memoirs – Six-word memoirs are about the coolest thing on the planet. Addictive as chocolate, these tiny stories pack a punch. I’ve written over 300 six-word stories and have been published in three different six-word collections: IT ALL CHANGED IN AN INSTANT by SMITH Magazine and Harper Perennial (which had over 200,000 submissions worldwide!); a 2013 desktop calendar (yes, I’m a calendar girl!) and SIX WORDS AT WORK also by SMITH MAGAZINE. Give them a try at They often have themes like “Food,” “Life, “Love” and many more. Ernest Hemingway allegedly started the whole phenomenon with his infamous sixer – “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.” That says a lot, doesn’t it?

I believe short stories help all writers learn to write concisely by cutting excess words and using powerful word choices. And they’re a nice breather. Do you enjoy writing short stories? What’s your favorite form?


About Beth Carter

Multiple award-winning novelist and children's book author. Former bank VP and hospital PR director turned pajama-wearing writer. Find me online or at Starbucks where I'll be writing while sipping a skinny vanilla latte. If I'm not there, it's possible I'm at T.J. Maxx. Happy reading! 2017 Raven Award Runner-Up for Favorite Contemporary - SLEEPING WITH ELVIS; 2015 RONE Winner and 2015 Best Debut Author - THURSDAYS AT COCONUTS.
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