Rabbits are not fish, but they’re both animals.
Short stories are not novels, though both forms have things in common.
Fantasy Faction, a place I was unfamiliar with until this morning, had some thoughts on Short Story Markets and Why They Are Important.
Unfortunately, the piece, written by Marc Aplin [edited to correct spelling!], doesn’t actually address why short story markets are important, so much as it tells you that short stories allow you to practice for your novel. This seems to imply that novels are more important and valuable than short stories themselves — that one writes short fiction in order to prepare themselves for the grand and arduous undertaking that it writing a novel or anything of greater length.
“At very least,” Aplin writes, “the short story market provides something for writers to invest their time into.”
As an editor for a short story market, let me tell you why they are important: short stories are vital and beautiful, and in this era of two-second attention spans and mobile-this and mobile-that, short stories are often the only fiction a person has time to digest. I have plenty of friends whose lives of work and families and travel have whittled their reading time to almost nil. Short fiction remains a way for them to vanish into another world, even if only for a few minutes. They cherish short stories. “Short story markets,” Beth Wodzinski says, “are important because they print wonderful short stories.”
This article does not consider that people genuinely love the short story form. Let us not consider that there are people who enjoy writing them, editing them, reading them, illustrating them, and reading them for podcasts. Short stories are not mere filler until your novel comes along.
Aplin goes on to say that short story markets should be treated as “contests,” that sending stories to them is “a game.”
Short stories are not a game. While I understand challenging yourself (I set out to write 12 new short stories every year, after all) the idea that publication is a contest is absurd. If you want to improve your writing, read everything you can get your hands on. Study what you read. Pay attention to what published writers have done — in the form you want to write in. A short story can certainly instruct you in how to string sentences together, but on a larger scale, they don’t prepare you for writing a novel any more than eating chocolate eggs prepares you for making an omelet. As Beth says, short stories are not training wheels.
Short stories rock. Here are a few of my favorites (outside what Shimmer has published, ha!): “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, “August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce, “Spunk” by Zora Neale Hurston, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Edgar Allan Poe.