March 10, 2010

Subject: How many short stories can you write in a year?

Every time I encounter the quantity vs. quality debate, I vow to write more. One of my resolutions this year was to write two short stories a month. Sadly, I have not made much progress on that front.

Turns out, it takes a long time to write a short story. The first draft of my Geektastic-inspired short story, which I began for the StorySleuths StoryChallenge in January, is about 95% complete. It just needs an ending.

Although I’m off to a slow start, I’m not going to give up. I assume that the more stories I attempt to write, the more I will improve. Some may not work out, such as the other story I began in January. But some will.

Anton Chekhov, a master at short stories, gave this advice to his brother, Alexander:

To have as few failures as possible in fiction writing, or in order not to be so sensitive to failures, you must write more, around one hundred or two hundred stories a year. That is the secret.

A hundred or two hundred stories a year!


Better get typing.

(Note: The Anton Chekhov quote comes from Bob Blaisdell’s article “A Few Words of Advice from Anton Chekhov, The Writer, September, 2004).

In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting here about writing and reading short stories for middle grade and young adult readers. I would love to hear from you. What are your experiences writing short stories?


  1. We just can't get away from "write more" as writing advice, can we?

    Writing time for short stories isn't exactly proportional to word count, in my experience. My short stories all tend to linger in limbo land, where I'm not sure if a story has ended, or if I really want to take the story that way, or if I want to explore a different themes.

    I haven't written short stories for young readers that I am happy with; all my short stories that feel complete to me are regular, ie, grown-up ones.

  2. Hi Yat-Yee,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about short stories. I understand what you mean about the stories that linger in limbo. I feel like I'm there with at least one story that feels incomplete.

    Do you think it's a matter of revision or have you moved on to new projects? I'd also love to know why the stories for adults feel more complete than the ones for younger readers.

    Hope you're doing well!

  3. Hmmm. Good question, I am not sure I know the answer. Maybe it's because I have read many more regular short stories than those for younger readers, and so my writing reflect the relative experiences I have in each category.

    Or my short stories for children seem so far from being polished and I don't even know how to make them better, which again, probably points back to my not having read enough kids ss to develop a good sense of it.

    Or something. ")