Short Story or Novel?

Betok_Haney

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I have been thinking of this question a lot lately as I have been getting back into creative writing. I have many ideas floating around in my head, and want to buckle down and start writing.

My tendency toward most things is to take on too much, become overwhelmed, and then burn out. I know that a novel will be a LOT of work, and such a project will eat my time, but could be incredibly rewarding. Short stories, in contrast, would take less time, but I struggle with keeping the story simple, and cutting out details.

I am working on succinct writing by joining in on challenges - which has been very difficult, but a lot of fun; however, for a personal project, I am torn between diving in on a novel, or trying my hand at a few short stories first.

Has anyone else struggled with this choice when deciding on a personal (or professional, for that matter) project?

I would love to hear your experiences - thanks!
 

Wayne Mack

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This can seem like a daunting decision, but do not let it become a hurdle to starting to write. There are quite a few people on this site who have chosen to do short stories and quite a few who have chosen novels. I'd guess that there are some who do both. There is not really a wrong decision. It is okay to write a short story and decide to blow it up into a novel. It is okay to start a novel and stop part way through if it becomes tedious (You can still choose to extract part of it or condense it as a short story).

For me, I've gravitated to novel writing, though I am still learning a lot about how to do it. I have found that it takes me a long period of time, but I find the time spent to be enjoyable, not "a LOT of work." I do not find that writing eats into my time; I do my writing in my spare time and I allow myself to do other things when they arise.

Go ahead and start writing and see what comes naturally to you. Do not be afraid of making a wrong initial choice -- you can always reverse course and even reverse course, again. Try getting the first thousand words down on paper; you have enough posts to put it in the Critiques forum. Best of luck on your efforts and I hope to see some of your longer works soon.
 

Mon0Zer0

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I struggle with keeping the story simple, and cutting out details.

Can absolutely relate - however I feel that's exactly why I should concentrate on them. There's a real skill to honing a plot and learning to trim the fat. If you can do that on short stories it will make it much easier when it comes to writing longform. Knowing that you can resolve a plot satisfactorily, create well rounded stories definitely helps for the big projects.

Every project you finish makes you level up your writing ability, and shorts help you to level up that much faster, IMHO. Just by doing the challenges here, I've noticed that I pay attention to different aspects of my writing than I did before, so definitely worth participating.

Once you've written your short, you can always extend it into a novel as you've got to dip your toe into the world your characters live in and get to know them better making it easier when you come to the big one.

From a career perspective, they're also a good idea to start building an audience, reputation and contacts by publishing through magazines. They're a great way to find a sympathetic editor!
 

WSDuffy

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I think that this is an extremely common issue. I am actually going through similar deliberations. The first thing I would say is that writing anything is way better than writing nothing (having tried both), so the fact that you are at your current choice is a sign of progress. The second thing I would suggest is to let the story choose its length. As you start drafting/outlining/whatever you do when you get started you might find that the story need more characters and space to be whole, driving you towards a novel, or that there is one key idea that you really want to get across, which might drive you towards short story. Either outcome is a good one. And if it turns out wrong, and your short story needs to grow or your novel ends up stopping while giving you the germ of a tight short story, those are good outcomes anyway.
 

Astro Pen

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I think it is important to realise that short stories and novels are completely different animals. Which is to say that writing a lot of short stories will not "warm you up" for writing a novel but will get you into completely the wrong rhythm, density and pacing for the longer project.

Since you have said you "struggle with keeping the story simple, and cutting out details." I would say go for the novel now. :cool:
If you are a seat of the pants writer it will write itself as you start each session wanting to find out what happens next. The subconscious calculation that goes on is a wondrous and seemingly magical help in moving the project forward each day.
 

Betok_Haney

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Thank you all for your input. There is definitely a common thread in each of your answers: Just do it! I suppose I spend too much time thinking about writing, instead of actually writing.

I'll work on not worrying about it so much, and just dive in. Let the story come out, and see what happens.
 

sknox

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Just write is one form advice. Another is to plan and aim for the target. I am a strong believer that getting a story completely finished is hugely important. Not just getting to The End, but all the way through every editing pass and sending the thing out the door to be published. Only then can you really say you've written a story.

With that in mind, there's a higher likelihood of completion with a short story than with a novel.

Another benefit of aiming for a short story is that you will begin to get a sense of how big a story is likely to be. When first starting, I had no idea how long my story idea was going to be. It *felt* like it could be a hundred pages or a thousand. I worked on it for years.

Happily, in the meantime, I had this other story idea hit me out of the blue. It felt urgent in a way the bigger story did not. In particular, I could see the scope of that shorter story in my mind. It didn't threaten to become bigger. Even though where the story began changed significantly, the scope of it did not. It wound up being a novelette. It's the freebie I give when people sign up for my newsletter.

Somewhere along in there, or maybe soon after, I had another story idea. This time, I *knew* it was a short story. It wasn't going to get any longer. So I wrote it and sent it off to a magazine. They had some criticisms; I made some changes, and they published it.

When I finally returned to the main novel, something fundamental had changed. I knew what "done" looked like. It was still another year or two before I completed it, but having that writerly knowledge was vital. At least for me.

I think it's not coincidental that on my next two novels I set out with an estimated word count in mind. In both cases I hit close to the mark. I didn't edit in order to reach that; I just sort of knew how long the story was going to be. And it's proving out on my WIP, too.

All anecdotes, but perhaps you'll find encouragement even if you don't find anything immediately useful.
 

Astro Pen

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Why not do a novella?
Mainly because novella are much harder to get a house interested in. Basically book overheads with a lower cover price.
If self publishing then no holds barred of course :giggle: (Provided your purchasers are clear what they are buying)
 

The Big Peat

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Mainly because novella are much harder to get a house interested in. Basically book overheads with a lower cover price.
If self publishing then no holds barred of course :giggle: (Provided your purchasers are clear what they are buying)

While true, short story publishing is little better. If it's on the menu, I see little reason not to have novellas on it too, which are an art form coming well and truly back into prominence.
 

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