“I can’t write short stories.” How many of you have said that? I know I did, many times. Years ago a friend and I co-wrote a short story called Chef’s Choice and sent it to a small, little-known magazine that published short romance stories. Authors were paid in free copies. The magazine was in print and was extremely hard to find. This was when there were only two ebook publishers and before ebooks took off. The story was rejected, confirming to me my inability to write short stories. I eventually used the characters in that story for my first published novel, A Catered Affair, published in 2003 by Avalon Books.
Fast forward to 2008. A new print romance magazine, New Love Stories Magazine, debuted. They were actively seeking short romance stories. I wrote another short about two chefs and used the title from my old rejected story, Chef’s Choice. Writing that story was pure torture, worse than writing the first one with that title. Maybe I struggled because I wrote it alone, unlike the other. I think every writer I know critiqued it. I finally finished it and sent it off to New Love Stories Magazine. Imagine my shock four months later when they offered a contract. And they paid $300! Chef’s Choice was in the magazine’s second issue, March 2009. NLS, as it was called, has since gone under.
By the time I attended RWA National in 2009, I was in a writing funk. I’d sold a book, Logan’s Redemption, to The Wild Rose Press in 2007. Yes, it was four years between books. Wild Rose rejected another book I’d sent them. I’d written a werewolf paranormal that I loved, but I was getting rejections from print publishers and agents. I eventually sold it to an epub, but that’s a nightmare in itself and one I won’t go into here.
I was about to give up writing altogether when a chance meeting with an online chapter mate in an elevator at the conference hotel saved my writing career. She wrote short stories for the confession magazines and suggested I do the same. I hadn’t read a confession story in about forty years, since I was a teen. All I knew was that they were in first person and were angst-filled. I’d never written first person either. At my new friend’s urging, I joined a Yahoo loop of Trues writers, as the confession writers called themselves. (Trues because the magazines all had True in the title). When one of the Trues editors posted on the loop that they needed Thanksgiving stories, and needed them fast, I got my chance. I’d had a story rattling around in my head for years—about two lonely people brought together by a cat. This story was much easier to write than my one with NLS. Maybe it was the first person that made it a breeze to write. Only my sister, a non-writer, critiqued it. I titled my story The Thanksgiving Dance, and emailed it to the editor. And she bought it! It was in the Fall 2009 issue of True Experience Magazine.
I ended up selling eleven short stories to the confession magazines. I had only one rejection, and I revised that story and re-submitted to another of their magazines and sold it. At the time there were five magazines: True Love, True Romance, True Confessions, True Story and True Experience. I’ve had stories published in each. I loved, loved writing for the confession market. Sadly, there are now only two magazines left, True Confessions and True Story.
I still love writing the shorts. My head is filled with stories that don’t have enough plot, conflict, GMC, etc, for full novels. All I need is a little background, some angst, conflict, character growth, and the promise of HEA. I love writing in first person too. Writing short has also taught me how to condense a story into one sentence. It’s also a good way to hone your writing skills because you’re forced to make each word count. Consider writing short stories for those ideas that may not sustain a full book.
I’ve recently sold two short stories to Boroughs Publishing Group, who is excellent to work with. I’ve also published two shorts on my own plus an anthology of short stories. Much as I love the Trues, I no longer submit to them for two reasons: they keep the rights in perpetuity and there are no bylines. Now that I’ve found modest (very modest) success with novels I don’t want to give away my rights forever, and I want my name attached to my stories.
If you’ve ever thought you couldn’t write short stories, but feel your writing needs a shot in the arm, think about writing for the confession market or for any short story market. The Trues are a nice source of steady income.
Short stories are also an excellent way to introduce yourself to the reading public. Readers who aren’t familiar with an author will pay 99 cents for a short story before plunking down more for a novel by an author they’ve never read. Recently an Amazon reader gave my short story, A Cinderella Christmas, five stars. She said she’d never read anything by me, but after reading this story, she likes my style and will buy my other books. You can’t pay for publicity like that. My short story, Accidental Love, is my top seller on Amazon so far this month.
My latest short story release is The Ring, from Boroughs Publishing Group. My second story with them, Love Potion, is tentatively scheduled for release October 2013. In addition, I’ve written an erotic short story called Capri Nights that I hope to release myself later this year.
Short stories are becoming more popular in these busy times. They’re great for reading while waiting in a doctor’s office, a salon, wherever.
Short stories rock!
(PS-That's my story, Homecoming of the Heart, on the cover of True Love Magazine above)