When I began fiction writing, I used to think the smart thing to do was to tackle the novel straight away. I knew (although I wasn’t exactly right) that a novel could get a power agent and a big-time publisher and transform a writer into a career novelist overnight. But a funny thing happened. My novels weren’t getting read.

I think writing short stories forces a writer to do more with fewer words. That condensed writing later serves an author working on larger works as well. With a short story, you have to do all the same work—create believable characters and a plot and story arc—but you have to do it in a short number of pages. That takes skill and work.

Short stories force a writer to do more with fewer words.

The other upside of writing short stories is that, although you may be paid in mere pennies or pages, getting published in literary journals gives you bonus points when approaching an agent or publisher with a book. I noticed more agents and publishers read my submissions (based on the feedback I received) after I had published some short stories in reputable journals. And I believe that helped me land my most excellent agent and publisher.