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Monday, June 24, 2013

Writing Short Stories for Fun and Profit



“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)




25 comments:

Tina Donahue said...

I've never written short stories. I would imagine it's very difficult to get all of what you want into one and have it be satisfying. Kudos to you, Cara, for excelling at the format. :)

VICKI BATMAN, said...

Hi, sweetie! You know I love your stories and I'm thinking it was me! in the elevator--right? lolol

You've done good and as you said, short stories have unique challenges but are well worth it. hugs

Liz said...

nice post Cara. I admire anyone who can make a short story really truly work. I know I cannot! sharing this link for ya

Cara Marsi said...

Thanks, Tina, Vicki and Liz. And yes, Vicki, you are the friend in the elevator. I will be forever grateful for meeting you for many reasons.

Rose Anderson said...

Wonderful perspective Cara. I'm one of those "can't write short stories" people. Seems the only way I can is if they begin as writing prompts. It works because that's just me expounding on another person's idea instead of my own.If I get a good idea for a shortie, the next thing I know it's a novel. As a result of trying, I have SO many unfinished novels right now! I envy writers who can do this easily.

Melissa Keir said...

Thank you for the perspective Cara! Like you, I love writing short stories. I find them to be exciting and challenging. You have to be selective with your words and really put forth the effort to trim the fat!

All the best,
Melissa

Sandy said...

Cara, I know how you feel. It's been 3 years since I've had anything published.

My publisher, Eirelander Publishing suggested to me to write a short story set in the same setting as my novels, so I'm doing that. They plan to re-release my first novel in August with a new cover.

Playground Monitor said...

Great article, Cara! I love writing short stories. I tend to write short anyway, so it's the perfect genre for me. I have a short story with Boroughs now. I'm hoping to hear something soon.

Marilyn

jean hart stewart said...

Very interesting..I never even thought of writing short stories. Don't think it's my forte but admire anybody who can. Always good to hear of another venue..

Nina Pierce said...

I'm so glad you're finding your writing groove in this market. I enjoy novella length, but have never tried the truly short, short. Hmmmm ...

Pat Marinelli said...

Great blog topic. Congrats on cracking the short market. I'll be checking out your short stories.

Cara Marsi said...

Thank you, Rose. You should try to make some of those unfinished novels into short stories.

Thanks, Melissa. Another short story writer! Yay!

Sandy, write that short story as your publisher suggested. I know writers who've done shorts to introduce the characters in their longer books. They say it helps sales.

Playground Monitor, best of luck with your short story at Boroughs. They're a great publisher.

Thanks, Jean and Nina. I think you should both try writing a short story. I tend to write short anyway. My novels usually come in at around 50K-60K words. I like writing novellas. I have two 80K novels out but it's not the norm for me to write something that long.

Pat, thanks for posting. I've met you before at NJRW, maybe? I do hope you'll check out my short stories, and the longer ones too.



Sydell Voeller said...

An interesting blog! I enjoyed reading about your journey to short story writing. Isn't it great to write for the Trues?

Cara Marsi said...

Thanks, Sydell. Yes, I've always loved writing for the Trues.

Sue Palmer Fineman said...

I love your short stories, Carolyn. I wish I could write them, but whenever I start a piece I think will be short, it ends up being a full novel.

Cara Marsi said...

Thanks, Sue. I love your books too. I sometimes wish I could write longer.

Paula Millhouse said...

Great article Cara, and I enjoyed reading everyone's comments too.

I LOVE writing shorts. Novel length fiction tends to get me all snared up inside. I have two out now myself, but those were a true labor of love.

Who made the point that our busy lives today are the perfect place to fit in great short stories?

I'm looking forward to reading your Boroughs Lunchbox Romance.

Paula Millhouse said...

Great article Cara, and I enjoyed reading everyone's comments too.

I LOVE writing shorts. Novel length fiction tends to get me all snared up inside. I have two out now myself, but those were a true labor of love.

Who made the point that our busy lives today are the perfect place to fit in great short stories?

I'm looking forward to reading your Boroughs Lunchbox Romance.

Gemma Juliana said...

Thanks for sharing and shedding light on the short story market, Cara. It's an area I've wondered about. I prefer writing short, as in novellas. I think I'll give it a go...

Cara Marsi said...

Thanks, Paula. I've got one of your Lunchbox romances in my Kindle and can't wait to get to it.

Thanks, Gemma. I like writing novellas too. Definitely give short stories a try.

Paris said...

I've often wondered how many times a chance meeting with the right person has served as inspiration to keep going.

Very good point about readers trying a story for 99 cents as opposed to a longer novel from an author they don't know. I love the short story format!

Cara Marsi said...

Hi, Paris, thanks for commenting. Yes, sometimes Serendipity happens, like my chance meeting in the elevator. It's wonderful when it happens.

Polly McCrillis said...

I've written many short stories and they were by far the most challenging works to write. I've never considered writing for a True,have never even read one but now I'm curious. Thank you! And congratulations on all your successes and new release.

Cara Marsi said...

Thanks for visiting, Polly. I hope you'll try your hand at writing a short story.

Mona Risk said...

Hi Cara, I've studied the self-published books sold on Amazon.com and discovered that short stories between 20,000 and 40,000 words are doing much better than long ones. Readers don't have the patience to read for a long time. You're doing great with your ebooks.

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