As a novelist you can benefit from writing a short story every once in a while, even if you don't intend to publish it. A short story hones your ability to say what must be said efficiently. Characters must be sketched in a few words. The plot must move along, with everything focused on a main event. Description, while minimal, must bring the story to life. It isn't easy, so it makes you a better writer.

Another nice thing about short stories is that they're useful both before and after you have a novel published. Before publication they can be a foot in the door. Telling an agent or an editor that you've been published anywhere is a plus, indicating that someone likes what you write. After publication it's nice to have a short story available for anthologies, magazines, and even on your website. It gives the public a taste of your work and a chance to see (and hopefully remember) your name. Some readers won't invest in a novel by someone they haven't read before, but they may read your short story and decide you're worthwhile.

Finally, a short story is often a welcome break from the hard work of putting together a novel. It's ... well, it's short, so it doesn't require the time commitment a novel does.

Take a break from writing to write? That works, as long as it's something else.

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