Here’s my hot take of the day: Every writer who is serious about their craft should be writing short fiction.
Who the fuck am I to have such audacious opinions?
If you don’t know me, let me introduce myself. I am A.P. Thayer, a professional speculative fiction author living in Los Angeles. I’m a Xicano writer with eight published pieces of short fiction. I am also the final English copy editor at Constelación Magazine and have been a slush reader for places like Fireside magazine, among others. I was also co-host on The Genre Hustle, a three season podcast on the craft of writing speculative fiction. I write weird fiction, horror, science-fantasy, and magical realism all blended together with a literary feel and am currently getting a novel ready for querying.
And I’m telling you, you should be writing short fiction.
I’m not exactly willing to die on this hill, but I do intend to dig in my heels and at least elevate my heart rate slightly while defending this stance.
Now, let me be clear, I am not saying that you need to write short fiction before you write a novel. That’s bullshit. For many years, the literary world did this thing where short fiction was treated as an avenue toward getting a book published, like it was a checkpoint on your journey to becoming a novelist. Something you had to do before a book deal. I’m not going to waste any time talking about how that’s no longer the case, how it should never have been the case, or yell at people who still think this is tHe WaY. Short fiction stands on its own, always has, and always will.
No, that isn’t why you should be writing short fiction.
Nor am I saying you need to write short fiction to necessarily get better at writing (though I do believe that’s the case). It can be argued that the more writing you do, the better you become at writing, no? Something something, one million words written, right? I don’t think anyone will argue that writing more will make your writing worse.
But, again, that’s not why I’m taking this stance.
I think you should write short fiction because it is the best and easiest way of dealing with imposter syndrome.
Writing a novel is a long, hard, and tedious process. It is a massive undertaking and you may not get a sense of satisfaction or completion for months, years, or maybe ever. The whole way through the process you’ll be asking yourself if you’re doing the right thing, you’ll be wondering if you’re a real writer, and all that horrible shit we all go through while writing.
Short fiction, on the other hand, has your back.
I can write a three thousand word short story, get it beta read, edit it, revise it, polish it, and submit it within the span of a couple weeks. Less if I’m really pushing it.
That’s two weeks of hard work and then I am finished with it. It’s the micro, hyper-focused, high adrenaline sprint side of writing, not the marathon. I get to work on my craft, work on editing, receive feedback, and finish a story on a condensed timeline. I’m in and out. Cue Rick & Morty 20 minute adventure meme.
On a months, if not years, long journey to finish a book, do you know how nice it is to get that sense of completion? It’s that little hit of self confidence patting you on the back saying, “Look! You can do a thing!” while the rest of your brain is screaming at you because you’re reading your third draft of a novel and you’ve spelled your main character’s name three different ways and changed tenses twice.
And you can do a thing. THE thing. You’re a storyteller. Why not try proving it to yourself by writing a short story? Cleanse your palate, take a step back from that novel that’s consuming your soul, get out a quick idea, polish it, and finish it. Show yourself you’re the storyteller you should know you are, but have maybe not felt like recently.
Plus, if you finish a short story you can submit it to the growing number of professional and semi-pro markets out there to make some scratch. Who can resist the extra validation of someone paying you money for your work?
So, next time you’re feeling down in the dumps about the novel you’re working on, turn to one of those several other ideas I know you have kicking around in your head and challenge yourself to write a tight 2,500 word story for that idea. Treat yourself to the intense, rewarding, and satisfying process of writing short fiction.
And then go get paid for it. It’s Hot Writer Summer, after all.
About A.P. Thayer
A.P. THAYER is a Xicano author based out of Los Angeles. He writes speculative fiction that blends horror, magic punk, grimdark, and science fiction. His work has appeared in Glitter + Ashes: Queer Tales of a World That Wouldn’t Die, Made in LA: Art of Transformation, and Murder Park After Dark.
He is a co-host on The Genre Hustle, a writing craft podcast focused on speculative fiction, and a staff member at Constelación magazine.
When he's not writing speculative fiction, he can be found cooking huevos rancheros for his friends or contemplating The Void in service of furry masters.
Find him at www.apthayer.com or on social media under the handle @apthayer.