Writing Short for Novel Writers


Crankycat’s tail is so short you can’t see it!

Last post we talked about how writing short articles based upon a longer book-length project can help writers build credits and grow an audience while finishing the book version. Now, let’s talk about how the Russian Nesting Dolls concept applies to fiction, specifically novel writers.

Writing Tip for Today: What are some ideas for shorter writing while you’re finishing that novel?

Mine Your Novel

For novel writing, the Nesting Dolls idea is similar to nonfiction. Instead of winnowing down your book’s topic, you’ll find areas of your story which translate to different topics. Let’s say your novel is set in the desert Southwest. Even if you grew up there like I did, you’ll likely have done some research to flesh out your setting. Find interesting facts about that setting to write a short article or essay about the region. Another idea is to look into your story and identify a few things that stand out: maybe your character loves peanut brittle, or golden retrievers, or is Amish or is a part-time vampire. You could do shorter work around any of these subjects—if your readers know you love peanut brittle as much as they do, they may find a yummy reason to look for anything you write, including nonfiction based upon your story. Broader topics might include symbols, central theme or major metaphor, but if you choose these to write shorter articles, be sure to get specific as the topic pertains to your story character.

Make It Matter

If you do short pieces based on your fictional work-in-progress, you’ll want to relate or slant these writings so that they matter to your character. If you write about peanut brittle, know why your character eats it and insert that slant into your story. For example, let’s imagine Character A eats brittle whenever she’s worried or feeling anxious (I know I do!). See if you can bring “comfort eating” into your short piece. Or if your character loves the beach but hates the city, you could write about the advantages of beachy life as seen through your character’s eyes. The point is to help make your story come alive by giving readers a character who seems real.

Seek out Markets

When you’ve gone through drafts, feedback, cooling off and rewrites enough times so you’re satisfied, identify markets that cater to short pieces. If your piece is still nonfiction (that is, not made up), you can submit to newspapers, magazines, e-zines, blogs or newsletters.  If you decide to stick with fiction and do a short-story-length version of your novel, you can find reputable contests, anthologies, literary mags, e-zines and even fan fiction. Find markets by consulting an online guide, check one out of a library or better yet, read a few issues of a mag to see what kind of stories are printed. Above all, check the publication’s guidelines for submitting before you hit send. If you get rejected, try another. If you get no takers, try posting short excerpts on your website or give away a serialized pdf of a short work to those who subscribe to your newsletter. Writing shorter while you finish your novel will help you build your readership, possibly bring you some publication credits and believe it or not, will help you learn more about your novel’s characters, setting and theme.


About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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