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Writing SF/F short stories - useful for novelists?

Troo

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However -- to prevent another kind of misunderstanding -- the model you propose is also somewhat misleading, in that both novels and short stories (generally speaking -- there are always the episodic novels mentioned above, etc.) have their own internal logic and structure, and to see a chapter as structurally a short story is a risky undertaking at best; one needs to envision the novel as an entity, regardless of length, just as one does the short story... or you're likely to find yourself falling more and more into the meandering sort of writing that ends up with you painted into corners. If anything, planning is even more important for a novel, because it's far too easy to use the extra space to allow you to wander... and find yourself derailing yourself over and over along the way.
That's likely down to me posting while at work, rather than in the peace and quiet of home. Yes, novel chapters are not short stories. I am not suggesting that they are, in any way.

What I'm saying is that short story writing skills are essential for novelists :)
 
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alihale

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Interesting thought, ctg, I do understand what you mean though I'm not sure how it would work for me. Hmm, it does open up possibilities for revising my fantasy novel (though if I go through another revision I think I'll want to strangle something... I'd called it very definitely FINISHED after the last one!)

Ali
 

j d worthington

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That's likely down to me posting while at work, rather than in the peace and quiet of home. Yes, novel chapters are not short stories. I am not suggesting that they are, in any way.

What I'm saying is that short story writing skills are essential for novelists :)
Yep, most definiely. And as for the posting... Oh, do I hear ya!...:rolleyes: (In addition to the evil smiley, I think we need a wincing smiley as well....)

Ali... I think most who write feel that way at times. Sometimes it's best, when it reaches that point, to just set it aside for a period (a few days, weeks, or months, whichever works for you) so that you can come back to it without all that emotional baggage, allowing you to see the material afresh, and consequently do the best editing and revision, rather than pushing it and getting frustrated (and possibly missing things that need changing, or opportunities to improve yourself as a writer)...
 

lin robinson

Science fiction fantasy
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Jun 18, 2007
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Writing a novel is like stringing up those short stories one after another
Hate to tell you, but if that's what you are trying to do, you're going to have a hard time.

I would make an analogy with another question: Does running sprints make you a better marathon runner?

Is running a marathon just tacking 17,000 hundred yard dashes together?
 

Barney

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Dec 1, 2007
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Hate to tell you, but if that's what you are trying to do, you're going to have a hard time.

I would make an analogy with another question: Does running sprints make you a better marathon runner?

Is running a marathon just tacking 17,000 hundred yard dashes together?
As has already been said (by Troo), I don't think ctg was saying that novel = series of short stories. But I reckon that most novels can be broken down to subplots that usually involve the same characters and some common settings.
The subplots should marry together and interlock to form a satisfying, unified narrative we call a novel. They shouldn't always pay off sequentially (as in an anthology), but maybe in clusters, as pacing demands. But there is nothing wrong with initially thinking of those seperate strands as short stories. Not at all.

To return to your analogy - someone who has practiced running sprints will have a much better chance of finishing a marathon than someone who one day decides to run a marathon with no prior training;)
 

Anthony G Williams

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Speaking personally, writing short stories has never appealed to me: I just think in terms of novels.

Conversely, in my non-fiction work I enjoy writing articles but find books very hard going (although admittedly it's nice to hold a published book in my hands).

Oh well, it takes all sorts.
 

j d worthington

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As has already been said (by Troo), I don't think ctg was saying that novel = series of short stories. But I reckon that most novels can be broken down to subplots that usually involve the same characters and some common settings.
The subplots should marry together and interlock to form a satisfying, unified narrative we call a novel. They shouldn't always pay off sequentially (as in an anthology), but maybe in clusters, as pacing demands. But there is nothing wrong with initially thinking of those seperate strands as short stories. Not at all.
Again, I have to take issue with this (at least, if I'm understanding what you're saying here). Unless it is an episodic novel, or a series of shorter tales woven together into a novel (in which case such a disproportion is simply all-but-inevitable), then these subplots need to be seen conceptually as a part of a whole, not as short stories, or a series of interrelated but distinct tales which eventually form a whole; else there is far too much chance of misproportion and imbalance in the novel as a whole. This is something we see even with many excellent writers who attempt such a scheme, and it usually takes them several books to get the proportions right so that the novel works as a whole, rather than a set of more-or-less disparate parts. They may give that impression on first reading, but it should be evident on a more careful reading that the writer saw them as threads contributing to the entire tapestry, much the same as various motifs, tableaux, tropes, bits of foreshadowing, and even choice of phrasing; rather than as in any way stories in their own right....
 

Barney

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Yes, the point was that the threads of a novel aren't treated as seperate strands tied together end to end. Rather, they all combine in the warp and weft to form the tapestry. To quote you;

then these subplots need to be seen conceptually as a part of a whole, not as short stories, or a series of interrelated but distinct tales which eventually form a whole

the subplots form a whole. They are interrelated. This precludes them being distinct from each other, otherwise they couldn't cohere.
To me writing short stories is something everyone should do before they try to write a novel. If you can't write well over 7000 words, or even want to try, does that mean you can write a 100,000 word opus?
 

lin robinson

Science fiction fantasy
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There is really no comparison between novel subplots and discrete short stories.

This is not an observation by a person with a lot of experience writing novels, I'm thinking.

Not all novels even have subplots, and they very often involve completely different characters from the main plot or other subplots. But they are functions of the overall arc. NOT something "woven" or bolted together.

Some novels do grow from groups of shorter stories. I did one last year that grew out of my syndicated columns. But it's not the norm.

And yeah, I guess running sprints would be better marathon training than laying on a couch.
 

Barney

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Who was drawing a comparison between subplots and discrete short stories? Not I, as you would realise if you took the trouble to read my posts.

At no point have I said that writing a novel is equivalent to bolting or weaving together short stories. That has been the opposite of what I was saying.
But thinking in short story terms can show some writers a way into a longer work. A starting point. If you don't agree with that, then you should just respect that other people have different ways of working.

Now I will return to lying "on my couch".
Good luck with your marathon...
 

lin robinson

Science fiction fantasy
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The comparison of short stories to subplots was yours, actually, since you are taking this a personal reply.
If you don't agree with my opinion, perhaps you should respect different ideas.
 

Flemcodogmusic

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May 12, 2007
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Greetings eveyone!

I don't tend to write short stories at all when I'm working on longer pieces ... but I do find them a great way to "chill out" between bigger projects. It freshens you up, I think ... colonic irrigation for the mind!

And at the end of the day, whether they're published or not ... whether they're relevant to novel-writing or not ... it's all good practice, right?

Right?
 

lin robinson

Science fiction fantasy
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Ah, short fiction as enema. I think that's healthy.

My guess would be a lot of book writers have a similar approach to shorts.
 

Mark Robson

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Interesting thought, ctg, I do understand what you mean though I'm not sure how it would work for me. Hmm, it does open up possibilities for revising my fantasy novel (though if I go through another revision I think I'll want to strangle something... I'd called it very definitely FINISHED after the last one!)

Ali
Never say never, Ali. I've had novels that I've thought were as good as I could get them and a couple of months later I've looked at them again only to find they were so full of holes I could have used them as a sieve! If you're sick of looking at the novel you've done, start writing another. Even if you did get a contract for the novel you've completed, the publisher would likely want to know what you're working on now ... publishers are like that. They don't want one book wonders. They are looking for writers with whom they can develop a sustainable and growing market - especially in SFF.

Once you've been writing your new novel for a while, then go back and look at the first one for a break. You'll be amazed what you find.
 

Grimblade

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I completely agree with that. Writing for me is a constant learning curve, every time I wrap something up (or should I say give something up?) and start something new I find myself looking at my previous project and wondering how drunk I must have been to have such bad writing.
 

ctg

weaver of the unseen
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If one has written a short story and want to publish it somewhere? Then what are the best options? Try to get it published in a commercial magazine or straight away dump them in some unpaid website (and hope to get picked for an anthology)?

I have seen some sites saying that they pay penny or few cents per word, is this the reality?
 

Doctor Sax

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If you can get a hundred quid for a short story you're doing well, I reckon.
 
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