Writing Life: The Short Shot

I had written short stories for classes or if someone invited me to write one, but I had never thought about writing for the short story market until about a year-and-a-half ago when I was asked to teach a dystopian fiction class to teenagers focused around producing a short story.

I always write with my students and use the development of my own story to demonstrate the creative process. I ended up creating something in my first dystopian fiction class that I really liked and thought there might be a market for the story.

I started reading more short stories on line, attending short fiction readings, and picked up several speculative fiction anthologies, and you know what? There’s some really interesting work out there.

Many people, including myself, romanticize novel writing and make that their number one goal. But it can take years to finish a novel to satisfaction and years more to see it in print. Short story writing can be extremely satisfying because one can finish a short story in a matter of weeks or even days with genuine focus.

You need to write as much as possible to hone your skills, and short stories allow you to explore numerous ideas and worlds and characters without too much of a commitment. It’s much less tragic to toss a short story that isn’t working then to trash an entire novel.

Getting short stories published is also a great way to keep your work in the public consciousness before your novel is published (or between novels being published). Sometimes it can take a while, but generally short story publication happens much quicker. For instance, I submitted to the Futuredaze anthology in June, was accepted the following month, and the anthology will be published in February 2013. From first draft to publication was less than a year. How many can say that about a novel that wasn’t self-published?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoGQ9XFIOTE]

The best part? You don’t need an agent to submit to most publishers of short stories. And, unless it’s an “invitation only” anthology, publishers will put out calls for submissions, often inspiring the writer with themes for their magazines and anthologies (Canadian Zombies! Doppleganger Dragons!)

There are also paying markets. You won’t see advances and royalties, but you’ll get paid for your words and rights revert back to the author upon publication, so if you love your characters and your story and want to expand it into a novel later on, that’s your prerogative.

Or you could choose to self-publish “ebooks” of each of your short stories at .99 a pop if you want.

Pretty sweet.

If this inspires you and you want to check this world out, here are some recent calls for short stories in the paid market:




If interested in finding these markets, subscribe to yahoo groups CRWROPPS (Creative Writers Opportunities List and Duotrope (soon to be a paid listings @ $5 / month) to keep abreast of new calls for work.

And please feel free to post links to any calls you’ve found lately!


  1. Jack Remick
    Dec 19, 2012

    Danika!. Great end to the process–writing with the other writers, kicking it out, working it up, seeing it coming down the pipe. Congratulations. The process works. The zinger is, of course–you write with the students. Loud applause and deep bowing…

    • Danika Dinsmore
      Dec 19, 2012

      Hey Jack! Nice to see you here and thanks for the kind words. I know you subscribe to writing with students. And it’s more than being a good writerly role model, it says we’re all in this together. It shows how messy creation can be. It gives them tools to use when they have to process on their own.

  2. 4amWriter
    Dec 22, 2012

    I really ought to focus more on short stories, as you suggest. I find them much more difficult to write than the full-length novel. I tend to think in big terms, with sweeping plot lines and a barrel full of characters.

    Perhaps wriitng short stories will be one of my 2013 resolutions…

    • Danika Dinsmore
      Dec 23, 2012

      I think writing multiple short stories is great editing practice. You don’t have time for lengthy exposition, so it keeps the story tight.

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