Why this picture? Whywhywhy?

A fellow graduate of my MA in Creative Writing recently asked why I continued to write short stories, if I see myself as a ‘novelist’. The truth is I don’t see myself as a ‘novelist’ or a ‘short story writer’, ‘playwright’ or a ‘poet’. I see myself as a writer and believe that a writer should be able to (at least) try all written forms.

Truth be known, I write and enter short story competitions for the following reasons and it is good for me to have this list at hand – in case I ever question myself.

a) Being shortlisted encourages and motivates – when such stuff is difficult to come by in the writer’s life.

b) I can get published in literary magazines.

c) Money, if I win.

d) It keeps me on my toes and hones and polishes my craft.

e) By writing stories I build up a portfolio – ready to go in case I’m ever offered a collection.

f) It gives me an edge when applying for bursaries, residencies, funding etc..

g) It might bring  the attention of publishers.

h) Short stories are something I can work on when time is limited.

i) An agent once told me that it is important to build up your writing ‘credits’.

j) Agents are human and sometimes don’t trust their own judgement, so wins and commendations give you that ‘seal of approval’/credibility.

k) Short story writing is a better displacement activity than making a cup of tea.

M) Having good writing credits help when applying for writing jobs.

p) Writing short stories reminds me that I’m a writer.


About suehealy

From Ireland, Sue Healy is Literary Manager at the Finborough Theatre, London, a full-time Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Lincoln. Her book on theatre literary management is published by Routledge, December 2022. Sue is an award-winning writer for stage, TV, and prose writer. TV Her current project, a 6x60minute TV series, is under option. She is under commission with Lone Wolf Media, producers behind PBS’ “Mercy Street”, to co-write the pilot and treatment for a six-part TV series. Stage Her most recent stage-play, Imaginationship (2018), enjoyed a sold out, extended run at the Finborough and later showed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. Her previous stage productions include Cow (Etcetera Theatre, 2017) and Brazen (King’s Head Theatre, 2016), funded by Arts Council England. Sue’s short plays have been performed at the Criterion (Criterion New Writing Showcase), Arcola (The Miniaturists) and Hackney Attic (Fizzy Sherbet Shorts). Radio Her radio work includes nine plays broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (Opening Lines winner), WLRfm and KCLR96fm. Prose Sue has won The Molly Keane Award, HISSAC Prize, Escalator Award, Meridian Prize and has been published in nine literary journals and anthologies including: The Moth, Flight, Tainted Innocence, New Writer, Duality, HISSAC, New European Writers. She has been writer-in-residence on Inis Oírr, Aran Islands, and at the Heinrich Boll Cottage on Achill Island. She has also benefitted from annual artist residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, and at Ginestrelle, Assisi in Italy. An academic with a PhD in modern theatre history, specifically the Royal Court Theatre, Sue has presented her research internationally. She spent eleven years in Budapest, editing Hungary A.M. She has a PhD in modern theatre history (Royal Court Theatre) and is a UEA Creative Writing MA alumnus. View all posts by suehealy

18 responses to “WhywhyWHYwhyWhy?

  • amyleebell

    What a great list! Perhaps short stories would be ideal for me, since I have trouble finishing anything longer than a magazine article.

  • Diane

    Thanks for that. I love writing my shorts and it is nice to see that someone with as much “writerly” experience and success as you have gives it a seal of approval.

  • Eliza

    The cup of tea one is a very good point 🙂
    No but I agree with you, I think that every writer should attempt to write all different genres.

  • jmmcdowell

    I’d also think that the skills needed to tell a compelling short story could be applied to the writing of scenes in a novel. Each scene in a novel should be tight and well-crafted and fit well into the whole.

  • ottabelle

    You can’t be a writer (which to me is a novelist, too) if you don’t write.

  • Ben

    Yes, writing credits are good, although they’re usually not make-or-break for agents (at least in my experience). I think the bigger benefit is just from stretching your brain muscles, especially when you push yourself to write outside your comfort zone (whether that is genre, form, etc.). You never know what you might learn while trying something new!

  • Jeannie Leflar

    I recently discovered Edith Pearlman, a wonderful writer of short stories who has enjoyed multiple successes within small press and literary magazines, winning several competitions/contests as well–all feathers in her cap. She has been “discovered” after years of writing and sadly states that she no longer has any real time to write because of talks, readings, book promotions, etc.

    But, I do think these are all valid reasons to write short stories and I have several of these same thoughts on my list as well.

  • From The Pews

    By providing your list…you have reminded me of WHY I took Creative Writing in the First Place!

    Unlike your Courageous Self…I am a CHICKEN and have NEVER Submitted and have stopped writing anything save for my blog…
    What a waste! I KNOW! I KNOW! I know….

    I should check in with you more often in order to utilize that ever-prominent motivator, GUILT 😉

    Thank You!

    And God Love You ♥

  • heretherebespiders

    Hi, Sue! I must apologise – I was/am a follower but I wasnt getting emailed updates of your posts. All remedied now, I look forward to catching up and reading new posts!

  • Jenny Alexander

    I’m the same with my writing – I feel I’m a writer, and I want to explore all the different ways of being a writer, so I don’t specialise at all. I thought my agent might be getting fed up with my lack of focus, but when we talked about it she said it was a real strength to be able to diversify, and helpful particularly in the current market

  • Jeannette Monahan

    Sue, you have reinforced something I’ve been thinking about for a while — I should learn to write other genres, or at least give them a try. I write non-fiction (not necessarily creative non-fiction), but fiction seems to have eluded me. I’ve been thinking I should stretch and learn more about writing it.Thanks for the nudge. 🙂

  • C Stuart Hardwick

    I agree completely. Besides, short stories are an excellent way to explore stories that have not yet matured in the mind. They are also good practice. I recently wrote a 750 word SS, and it was the most fun I’ve had in months.

  • le artiste boots

    I enjoy your posts. I nominated you for a Sunshine Award. Hope you can check out my post to see the details. Enjoy.

  • Susannah Bianchi

    I loved what you wrote. Thanks.


  • Marvin the Martian

    Most writers do it just because they get a self-flagellative kick out of rejection.

  • Artist Beverly Bishop

    I have never once got a kick out of reading my rejection letters although Steven King said, “That a writer is not a writer until they recieve their first rejection letter!” Sue, I just realised that you have a twitter spot and normally I only add local people where I live or something to with theatre or music entertainment on my twitter…I am sorry that I did not realise that it was you and I have added you onto my twitter now…Quite impressive you are and I enjoy the fact that I can now read your post at twitter as well as here…Bev B

  • njaleruma

    It sounds wonderfully placed for one to concentrate on short stories,but that is not my area of jurisdiction, I simply love to talk a lot and this is equally displayed in the stories I write.However, your stories are good enough for one to read and laugh,yearning for more.

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