Short fiction — anything less than 40,000 words, at which point it’s officially a novel — is often overlooked. After all, even the definition of the novel seems small today, since a 40,000-word novel is, at maximum, 200 pages long. (And that’s if you use really long words.) When’s the last time you read a modern adult novel that was 200 pages or less?

Let’s take a look at some of the myths of short fiction, and why you should ignore them.

People will look down on you. After all, you’re not publishing real stories. Not long, involved ones, anyway. How much development can you get in a short story? What, you don’t have enough ideas for a full novel?

The Reality: Especially today, when so many people are writing for the ebook market primarily, if not exclusively, it’s easy to find that novels actually have too many words. It takes serious skill to use five words where we might naturally use fifteen. Telling a complete story in 12,000 words that makes you not only like the character but remember the story years later? That takes dedication.

Lots of words don’t make a story better. In fact, having lots of excess words can make a good story boring. One of my favorite writing anecdotes is when Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle were submitting their manuscript for The Mote in God’s Eye, one of the most famous works of science fiction, they were told that it was too long. They had to go back through the book and trim out words to match the required count, keeping a running tally of how much they had cut per page. The result was one of the most tight manuscripts in history. It was published in 1974, and it still gets them royalties.

So long as you don’t sacrifice your story, trim the fat. Make your words do double duty. There are a lot of short works that are decades, even centuries old, and they’re still being read. Maybe you won’t be a Dickens or Doyle or Orwell, but that wordcount is still your friend, not your enemy. Let it push you to do better.

Series are big. People want to invest in characters. They want to know that a series is going to be around long enough for them to truly grow to care about it. Twilight and Harry Potter alike didn’t start to take off as mainstream until their third books were out. Sure, maybe you can write some short stories that take place between books, but don’t waste your time on that now. Write that series!

The Reality: Yes, people want long stories . . . but they also want short stories they can read quickly. The market for short fiction is growing in near-direct proportion to how many people are now carrying a Kindle, iPad, or other e-reading device. If you’ve already got a tablet, why not load some books on it? This is especially popular with commuters who use public transit, or other people who have regular short breaks to read fiction. Tap into that market.

And who says a series has to be a series of novels?

You won’t make as much money. People don’t want to spend a whole dollar for something that they’ll read in twenty minutes, not when they could spend five dollars and get a 400-page novel that will take them a few days. And if you get into an anthology, even at professional rates, you’ll only make around $400 — which might sound good, but you’ll only get paid once. If you write up a full novel and sell it for $5 on Amazon, then even at the 35% royalty rate you’ll make that much after just 230 sales. And 230 sales of a novel? Sheesh, if you’re not doing that much, you might as well pack up and go home.

The Reality: Anthologies come from more than just big names now, and you can find some that split up the royalties, though that still won’t mean much return even after costs are paid. If you’re looking at the self-publishing digital market, however, then what’s to stop you from putting three or more short works into one bundle and selling it for a buck or two? If you take the series advice, then you’ll have several interconnected adventures.

And remember, short fiction is anything under 40,000 words. That might not be much next to a full modern-sized novel, but a novella is still something you can sell for more than $.99. Animal FarmThe Time Machine, and A Christmas Carol are all novellas. You don’t have to write a thousand-pager to get noticed. Write the story you want to tell, and then sell it for what it’s worth. Once you recoup the cost of a cover artist, editor, and any ads you might run, anything after that is gravy.

You don’t stand out. Trying to sell short fiction on your own is hard enough, but when you’re in an anthology then it’s often potluck. Who knows what they’ll find in an anthology? You’ll find very different stories next to each other, and the fans don’t always overlap.

The Reality: Welcome to the digital age. In decades past, if you liked a particular author but couldn’t find him or her on the shelf, you were out of luck. Short of scouring the magazines or calling up publishing houses, you wouldn’t know if there was anything else from that author to read. Now? Even if you don’t have a smart phone, few people are very far from some device that can access a search engine.

And with small presses ever more able to make it in an industry that used to be dominated by a few large publishing houses, anthologies are making a huge comeback. It’s more than possible to advertise a themed anthology and get far more submissions than the publisher can actually fit in one book, allowing them to winnow it down to the best choices that fit their theme. If you get into an anthology like that, you’re already targeting your own select audience. Everyone in the anthology starts helping everyone else out.

You don’t have enough room for a good story. Short fiction is just that — short. Sure, people might want to buy it, but unless they’re already your fans, you don’t have enough room to really capture their imaginations. You need longer stories, with more room for detail.

The Reality: Okay, this one has some truth to it. You really don’t have as much room. But that’s part of the beauty of short fiction. Just as one of the most important parts of a painting is the edge where it stops, so too can the very size of a short story help enhance your writing. Our limits help define us, particularly if they’re voluntary.

I’ve a friend who’s become very involved in CrossFit in the last several years. Like other CrossFitters, she sees her previous time not so much as a personal best but rather as a challenge to do even better. Writing is the same way. That last draft told the story in 12,000 words. Trim off a thousand. Can you do it and still tell the story? Do you have more than one story going on? If so, can you split them in two? If your novel is a series of related adventures (like, say, The Hobbit), what if you split them all off into their own stories and published them in series?

Don’t think of the word limit as a barrier. It’s a challenge. You can do it.

Don’t get discouraged. No matter what impression you might get, short fiction is not a poor man’s excuse for a novel, nor is it just something big-name authors do to fill time between books. The short fiction market is growing. More and more people want to read it; and remember, as any market expands, quality always stands out. If you treat short fiction as being less worthy than novels, you’ll never end up with the story you could have told.

And here’s another advantage, if you still needed one. Short fiction is a lot easier to practice than novels. You can refine the techniques faster and with greater range. That way, when the time comes that you get an opportunity, when you see an anthology advertising, when you get an idea in the middle of your novel for a small adventure featuring your characters, you can write it easily. A short story can be written in a day or two; a novelette or novella won’t take longer than a week if you have a clear story in your head. You can pound it out and refine it. Anthology windows are usually months long. You’ll have the time to get it right.