If short stories are a mistake, I plan to keep mistaking away

It appears that admitting to mistakes in one's writing career resonates with people. Not only is that post my site's most-read item of the year but it proved equally popular when SFWA reprinted it.

But I think I made a new mistake in my post by implying I regret my focus on short fiction.

It wasn't my intention to say that writing short fiction is a mistake. I love short stories. I will always read and write in the short story genre. In fact, I find short stories to be a perfect match for my aspirations and dreams as a writer.

For example, at this moment I have exactly 20 short stories in various stages of completion (along with a young adult novel I'm working on). As a writer I tend to jump back and forth between different stories — when I hit a snag with a story I jump over to the next story. By the time I return to the original tale I've usually cleared my head of enough writer's block that I can keep going.

But even beyond short stories being a good match for my writing style, I also believe the genre is a perfect match for today's hyper-fragmented and disjointed world. The days when a novel could be at the cutting edge of literature is probably passing, but short stories — damn, that's where the action is.

The problem, of course, is that short stories have a much smaller readership than novel-length fiction. I'm optimistic that this will eventually change, especially since current trends in e-publishing are so supportive of short fiction. But until things do change, my advice to new authors is to write short stories if you love the genre. That said, don't expect short stories to carry you to the bestseller lists or (almost never) to literary stardom. For that you'll need to branch out into novel writing. 

When I said focusing on short stories was a writing-career mistake, I was trying to say that if I'd wanted to be a bestselling author, then yes, I didn't pick the easiest path to achieving that goal. That's what I meant by a writing career mistake.

But here's a secret — making the bestseller list is not my writing goal. Instead, I want to write the best stories possible. I want to create stories which readers enjoy and which will live on after I'm gone. I want to write stories which tweak the world in glorious yet subtle ways.

Last week an editor I deeply respect read my post and wrote to me saying short stories are never a writing-career mistake. And that's absolutely true. I shouldn't have been so cavalier with that statement. I shouldn't have even listed that as one of my mistakes.

I love short stories. I'll always write them. And short stories have taken me to where I am today as a writer.

If that's a mistake, I plan to keep on mistaking until I die.