Show Us Your Shorts!

By Charlotte Bennardo

I'm going to keep this short - because that's the theme.

Do you write short stories? No?

I know the excuses:

     I can't write anything under 20,000 words.

     I don't know what to write about.

     The word limit is too... limiting.

     I only write novels. (Or picture books. Or anime. Or screenplays.)

When I first started writing for children, I wrote picture books. But since I couldn't keep to a word count under 1,300 words, I gave that up and found my niche in novels for young adults and middle grade.

Then I saw an intriguing call for submissions for an anthology by Leap Books celebrating the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

And I thought... why not?

Photo by from Pexels

A word limit of 3,000 to 5,000 words must be observed, the story had to employ three elements (Alice, the White Rabbit, and a journey) and of course the work must be submitted within the deadline. If accepted, I would even be paid a small honorarium (hey, it's still money).

I thought and I thought. When an idea hit, I ran with it.

It was rejected- and I recognized that yeah, it deserved to be. But I was determined and wrote another submission- which was accepted (Alice Through the Wormhole is my story, and the anthology is Beware the Little White Rabbit. It's still available through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.)

I forced myself to stay in the word count (actually, I misread that part; I thought it was up to 3,000 words, but it was a minimum of 3,000).  Writing that short story not only helped me sharpen my skills by learning to make judicious word choices and a streamlined plot, but it built confidence that I could write shorter pieces.

Since that success, I've had a short horror story, Faces in the Wood, included as part of a charitable anthology, Scare Me to Sleep, and I've submitted a gothic-style short for Leap's newest anthology celebrating the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The contest deadline is February 14th, and is titled Strangely Are Our Souls Constructed (a line from the book). More details can be found on their website. There's still time!

I've seen a number of colleagues branching out from novels into short stories. If you're intimidated by writing a 50,000+ word novel, this is the perfect starting point. Even if your story is not accepted, once you read it over (and you will) you'll see places where you could have improved, but you'll also see sections that amaze you.

I've gone on  long enough... See you next month!


  1. Wasn't "short" how we met, Holly? You were looking for some prompts to jump start stories and accepted one of mine from a flash fiction piece I did. Charlotte's short story ALICE THROUGH THE WORMHOLE is a winner. Great "short" Char!

  2. Love Alice and Wonderland, will have to check this short story out.

  3. I love how you gave yourself this challenge - and met it!


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