Short story v novella v novel

Stomalomalus

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I’ve got a story idea I’ve been working on. The thing is, there’s multiple parts to it that could work as short stories, or some can be put together as novella or novel. The question is: what would I lose or gain for doing so?

I had originally intended to have it as a novel but as I started writing, I realized that the main story arc would really work as a shorter story. But that it would be possible to take a larger, longer story arc as the main story line, and have this character journey as just part of a larger novel.

The thing is, for fantasy, the shorter story doesn’t do much escapism: it might feel a little too much like a fable dressed as fantasy. If I extended the story, it would properly introduce magical character(s), instead of simply introducing them but not doing anything with the character until a later story.
 

sknox

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You lay out a couple of considerations yourself. I can't tell you whether one works better than another because it's all in the execution, but I would encourage you to explore other considerations and alternatives as well. That will help you choose which works best for you.

One way to explore is to outline, sketch, make notes--whatever works for you that will flesh out the bare bones you've laid out here.
 

DLCroix

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The good thing is that you have an idea, then you start with something to work on. Then, analyze that idea and break it down, see what elements it has and then, as @sknox says, it is good that you try different formats according to the elements that give you that idea.

But the extension should be the last thing on your mind. Because, unless you plan to submit the material to a publisher or to a contest, there is no point in setting limits. Also, you won't do well in any of them if you don't have your own voice and style. Just as important as the stories you intend to tell is how you do it. You must first find them. On the other hand, see the positive aspect: you have carte blanche to do basically what you want, so explore your capabilities and once you know which format you are best for or which comes easier to you (from the heart, we could say), you tackle extension aspects.

At the same time, it is advised that you study the differences between a short story, a novella, and a novel. There is a lot of information available about it so we can avoid the work and time of explaining it to you here. I always recommend, for example, On Writing, by Stephen King and the literary workshop of the Argentine Axxon magazine, although the latter is in Spanish. And of course, also read, and with even greater intensity, books about the topics that interest you. The ideal, yes, would be for you to read everything, because that gives you the tools to adopt many approaches. For example, Chandler, Arthur Conan Doyle, Poe, Chejov, Borges, especially Chejov, are essential to understand the technique of stories.

There is plenty of work to do. So, good luck and next year let us know how it went. Because, being honest, I have to tell you that there are no shortcuts to climb the mountain. You must go step by step. For example, I spent six years writing day after day and only in the seventh year did I manage to finish my first draft of a more or less acceptable novel, but in the eighth year I changed the style of the narrator (the voice you use to tell your stories, for example, that as a woman you write from a male first-person narrator, or that you adopt the personality of a detective, or even a murderer, who narrates those stories). But there are many things to learn and it is good to learn them one by one, so be patient. :ninja:
 

JunkMonkey

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I’ve got a story idea I’ve been working on. The thing is, there’s multiple parts to it that could work as short stories, or some can be put together as novella or novel. The question is: what would I lose or gain for doing so?

I had originally intended to have it as a novel but as I started writing, I realized that the main story arc would really work as a shorter story. But that it would be possible to take a larger, longer story arc as the main story line, and have this character journey as just part of a larger novel.

The thing is, for fantasy, the shorter story doesn’t do much escapism: it might feel a little too much like a fable dressed as fantasy. If I extended the story, it would properly introduce magical character(s), instead of simply introducing them but not doing anything with the character until a later story.


I've always been fond of the type of book that has several short/er self-contained, episodes that make a larger whole. Like Keith Roberts' Pavane, and Kiteworld, or Clifford Simaks' City Maybe that would be a way to go?
 

J-Sun

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I've always been fond of the type of book that has several short/er self-contained, episodes that make a larger whole. Like Keith Roberts' Pavane, and Kiteworld, or Clifford Simaks' City Maybe that would be a way to go?
Just what I was going to say. (Asimov's Foundation Trilogy is the touchstone for me there.) You preserve the integrity of your stories, you create a whole greater than the sum of the parts, you get exposure with a broader range of readers and satisfy many who prefer shorts and many who prefer novels... and you get paid an extra time for the same amount of work. Two extra times if one or more of your stories is anthologized. :)
 

Wayne Mack

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If these are simply a set of short stories, treat them as such. I'm not sure putting them in one long book provides much benefit. As a reader, I tend to feel disappointed if I buy a novel and then have turn out to be a series of vignettes.
 

DLCroix

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Just what I was going to say. (Asimov's Foundation Trilogy is the touchstone for me there.) You preserve the integrity of your stories, you create a whole greater than the sum of the parts, you get exposure with a broader range of readers and satisfy many who prefer shorts and many who prefer novels... and you get paid an extra time for the same amount of work. Two extra times if one or more of your stories is anthologized. :)

Yes, it is a good example, but I would like to remind you that the first story in the Asimov series was published in 1942 and the last in 1949; that is to say, that project took him seven years, and he needed two more years to publish the first book of the trilogy. That is to say, one reads the book perhaps in a couple of days but does not usually think about all the work that went into it and the time it took. :ninja:
 

Stomalomalus

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I've always been fond of the type of book that has several short/er self-contained, episodes that make a larger whole. Like Keith Roberts' Pavane, and Kiteworld, or Clifford Simaks' City Maybe that would be a way to go?
Or Gemmel's The Chronicles of Druss the Legend, which was definitely on my mind.

But this story wouldn't fit into that format.

I'm just wondering because the overall character arc and the one I had in mind as a bit of a longer story are related but not necessarily together at this point. Maybe they'll come together later.
 

sknox

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The best "novel" as a series of vignettes was Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, which were originally short stories that he revised and wove into a single publication. Also good was Winesburg, Ohio, by Sherwood Anderson. Which Bradbury once said was a model for his Martian Chronicles. In both, the stories are not so much woven together as they all exist under the same umbrella.
 

AllanR

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Another good example of a fix-up novel, where four related short stories are stitched together as a single, Voyage of the Space Beagle by van Vogt.
 

sknox

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Yeah, now I think a bit more, this was not at all uncommon in Days Gone By. Writers--at least in the SF world, but I think it applies to detective and Westerns as well--got a goodly portion of their income by selling short stories to magazines. Not surprisingly, such stories might feature the same character (e.g., Hammett's Continental Op). Or they were all set in a similar world or universe. These folk were master storytellers, so stitching it together wasn't the challenge. The real challenge was finding a publisher willing to take on the re-worked novel. There were several of those, and thus future generations are blessed with dynamite stories.
 

JunkMonkey

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Another good example of a fix-up novel, where four related short stories are stitched together as a single, Voyage of the Space Beagle by van Vogt.

van Vogt did this a lot - quite often having to go to extraordinary lengths to get stories which, in their original form had nothing to do with each other in the slightest, fit together. This is what makes so many of his books so delightfully incoherent. Voyage of the Space Beagle and The Weapon Shop books are probably his best and most linear but something like The Moonbeast is just feverdream stuff.
 

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