by Paula Gail Benson
My writing life shifted into high gear when I joined the online chapter of Sisters in Crime called “The Guppies.” Sisters in Crime is a national organization founded by Sara Paretsky and others to bring attention to female authors of crime fiction. (It now has many brothers as well as sisters.) “Guppies” stands for “the great unpublished,” but it’s such a genial fellowship that many remain members after their work sees print.
Being a Guppy particularly helped me because:
- I began receiving notices about anthologies accepting short story submissions.
- I had the opportunity to join a short story critique group.
Most people don’t think about writing short stories as a goal, but there is a thriving community of short story authors. Certainly, noted Canadian short story author Alice Munro’s winning the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature has brought notice to writing short fiction. Interest in this field also has increased with the growing number of online markets. Short stories in all genres—literary, inspirational, romance, mystery, fantasy, science fiction—are actively being sought.
The encouraging aspects of writing short stories are:
- You can write a story in a shorter time frame than a novel.
- You don’t need an agent to submit.
- You hear fairly quickly if your story has been accepted or rejected.
Often, if you ask nicely, an editor will respond personally and tell you why your story was rejected, which gives you valuable information and also may help you make a contact in the publishing business. Frequently, you can make online submissions, thus avoiding mailing costs.
Published short stories are eligible for awards, so they can bring you not only writing credits, but also a higher profile in the writing community. I have a number of friends who are well known mystery writers and primarily write short stories. Take a look at the websites for Barb Goffman, B.K. Stevens, and Art Taylor .
Short story writers have their own societies and list servs full of members who may offer advice and support. Joining the Short Mystery Fiction Society (SMFS) is free. Details are found at its website: As with most writing organizations, the SMFS offers a wonderful forum for writers at all levels.
The down side of short story writing is this:
- Crafting a short story may be as complex as developing a novel.
- Often the only payment for a short story is publication or a very low per word rate.
- With renewed interest in the market, there is significant competition.
If you are interested in writing mystery short stories, I wrote a series of 13 messages on the topic in 2013 providing information about markets, resources, classes, awards, and craft for the blog Writers Who Kill. The complete list of messages I wrote for WWK is found with hyperlinks on my personal blog, Little Sources of Joy. Sandra Seaman’s blog, My Little Corner, announces opportunities available for short story writing and is a great resource. Ralan, at http://www.ralan.com, provides market information for short speculative and humor fiction.
Have you thought about writing a short story? You might want to consider it. I hope you will.
A legislative attorney and former law librarian, Paula Gail Benson’s short stories have been published in Kings River Life, the BethlehemWriters Roundtable, Mystery Times Ten 2013 (Buddhapuss Ink), and A Tall Ship, a Star, and Plunder (Dark Oak Press and Media, released January 20, 2014). She regularly blogs with others at http://writerswhokill.blogspot.com. Her website is http://paulagailbenson.com.