Some of the work that moved me most as a reader have been short stories. It is through writing short stories that people like Anne McCaffrey and Isaac Asimov first began to find acceptance in the publishing community.
Magazines focusing on speculative fiction were popular and at that time, there weren’t many authors writing in that genre. People didn’t have the internet, but they did have limited free time and short attention spans.
Magazines offered surprisingly high quality short fiction in lengths that fit into the busy lifestyle of the time. My father subscribed to four magazines as did my mother. Magazines or books would arrive in our mailbox each week, as my parents were also members of the Science Fiction Book Club and the Double Day Book Club. This meant that besides the eight magazines, four new hard-cover books would arrive at our house every month.
Frequently, those books were anthologies of short stories.
Times have changed and so has the publishing industry. But writing short stories is still the way to get your foot in the door and not only gain visibility, but you will grow as a writer. Magazines are springing up all over the internet, and they are accepting submissions.
It is a good idea to begin putting together a collection of short pieces in a variety of genres and in as wide a range of topics as you can think of. The following is a list of on-line sci-fi/fantasy magazines, and many in every other genre are also accepting submissions:
Apex Magazine (submissions re-open in September)
Now, I hear the Ghost of Rejections Past wailing in the background “But what if I get rejected?” Rejection happens. I could wallpaper the inside of an outhouse with them. Step back, take a good look at the story, and if you still think it is your best work, shop it to a different magazine. The ones I’ve listed are only the tip of the iceberg–there is opportunity out there for indies to gain both visibility and credibility by publishing short works through traditional routes.
The thing is, magazines are not the only reason you need a backlog of short stories–consider CONTESTS. Many are free and have reputable histories. The Write Life posted this article on 27 Free Writing Contests.
Not all contests are free, and not all contests are reputable. Exercise “due-diligence” here. I enter the Lasceaux Review contest every time a new one pops up, simply because it is highly reputable and is one of the most friendly to indies, and has a reasonable entry fee, usually $10.00.
Writing chops. Because you must write to the parameters of the contest, you develop your writing muscles each time you exercise them. Being forced to work within the confines of an arbitrary external limit forces you to become more creative if you are (as I am) of a naturally rebellious nature.
You have to use common sense here. If you can’t afford it, don’t enter that contest. Find one you can afford and see what you have that fits their needs. Every contest has rules and limits for the work they want to see in their submissions.
Writing short stories gets you writing more: more often, more widely on a wide range of topics, and more creatively using a variety of style. Using and building these writing-chops can only grow you as an author.