Short Stories for Success

Holly Lisle said something pretty profound on the latest episode of her podcast. She was talking about prologues, whether or not to include them, but the advice applies to writing in general: “There is no one true way in writing. In anything in writing, there is no one absolute path that you must take. There is no one right answer.”

So then how do you find what works? One of my favorite blog posts is Steve Pavlina’s “30 Days to Success.” Steve suggests that when you do something to improve yourself, it doesn’t need to be permanent, especially if you don’t really know whether it’ll work for you. So rather than making a permanent change, which is a monumental task, just try it for 30 days. Want to quit smoking? Try it for 30 days? Want to get up earlier? Try it for 30 days. Want to stop eating meat? Try it for 30 days? Even if the experiment is a disaster, even if you hate how it turns out, it’s only 30 days. It’s no big deal. But you might find that it works and that you like it. And after 30 days, it’ll be much easier to keep doing it if you want.

We can do the same thing with our writing. Does a technique sound crazy to you? Try it in a short story. Do you want to learn to write better sympathetic characters? Try it in a short story. Do you want to expand yourself, to write in a different voice or person? Try it in a short story.

The story can be as short as you like. It can be flash fiction. It can be a chapter or snippet from what could be a larger work. It could even be a free-form piece. As long as it gives you a way to try something new and to see whether it worked.

If it worked, then you can say, “I’ve done that before.” And it’ll be that much easier to do it again next time.


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