Should I Write a Short Story or a Novel?

This question has vexed me since I’ve started writing. The first novel-length work I ever wrote was effectively a lengthened short story by throwing contrived plot twists into the story.

It was terrible.

However, the question is a valid one: What should the length of my story be?

To be honest, there’s more options than just short story or novel. You could write a novella (and I am currently working on one) or any other length of work. So I brainstormed and came up with a few pointers for people, like me, who struggle to decide which way to go with their fiction:

  • The length of the work should depend on the work itself and your own style.

I spent some time working on a short story. I really liked where it was going. A deep lore, interesting fantasy elements, and even a geography. I think you can see the problem already. This work was not meant to be a short story. It was meant to be a longer format.

If your story involves a deeply entrenched history and other worldbuilding elements, you may want to go with a longer format. Short stories are designed to tell a tale quickly and effectively. It’s hard to get as detailed as you’d like with a short story, but not impossible.

  • A longer format allows for mistakes.

Novels can be messy. By that I mean they should be well-written, plotted, and designed to have a story with characters. But, you can make “mistakes” that you can’t make with short stories.

Due to the word constraints in a short story, there’s less space to experiment with different scenes, or beats, in a story. You have to setup and pay off within the same 3000 words, for example. In a novel, you can set things up that suggest something, then have a reversal of those expectations later in the story. However, it may be 30,000 words between setup and pay off. You have the room to experiment with it.

If your style is more attuned to adding new plot threads, suggestions of further depth, or hidden secrets, then a longer length may be preferable.

If the story contains those elements in your outlining, then you may want to think about going for the longer length, as well.

  • Short fiction has the benefit of brevity.

If “brevity is the soul of wit”, then I’d argue that a short story helps writers become witty with their choices.

Short fiction helps a writer develop plotting and endings far better than any novel. However, once a writer has developed as a short story writer, most will make the move to novels. The character development, dialogue, and worldbuilding that you can do in a novel is just plain fun. Conventional wisdom has always held that a writer should work on short stories first, then work on novels. I’m not sure I’d go as far as saying that’s required in all cases, but I see the benefits.

All in all, think about it. You and your story may benefit from a different format.


You might like some of my book reviews:

Book Review: The King of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Dunsany

Book Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Book Review: The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe

You may also like my other work on writing:

Finding Your Writing Style

Dodging Derivatives

Make sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram!

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Life Update – 2017/10/28

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I have a lot to say today. First off, thank you so much for all the followers! I am approaching a hundred on WordPress alone, which is amazing. What’s more is I am above a hundred on my Twitter account, which is also such a great thing to see, so thank you for that as well!

I suppose I should update you, my dear reader, on my life events:

Dragon Con

My first convention didn’t happen this year. I’ve never been to one, but was hoping to go to Dragon Con in Atlanta. It’s not too far from me, so it would be a good one to visit. There’s a great scifi/fantasy scene, and I was hoping to get to know some people there.

However, it looks like I’m clear to go to it in 2018. I hope to see you there!

 

My First (Real) Novel

As for my first non-NaNoWriMo novel, I hope I’ll be done by the end of the year. I had three short stories over the last two months that distracted me, but I think that should be fixed soon.

I’ve only even written one novel before this one, and it had far less in the way of crafting an entire universe. It was also half as long as this, as NaNoWriMo requires 50k words, and this one is looking to be around 100k.

To be honest, I have sat down to write novels in the past, but never completed them. When I completed my first one in NaNoWriMo, I realized it was possible, and saw in my future the reality of a finished work. I can write a novel, and so can you.

 

Poetry Still

I still love poetry, even if I think the medium is a shadow of what it once was. The self-reflective aesthetic of the 19th century was lost to a modern interest in conceptual messaging. I much prefer poetry with both form and beauty, and I think I will begin to share with you, my dear reader, my poems.

If you’re interested in poetry, leave me a comment so I know. I’ll share some in the future if this is the case.

 

Submissions, Submissions, and More Submissions

I have two completed short stories that are nearing submission quality. One is much closer than the other, so I want to get that one out tomorrow to various publications. The second one needs a solid 5% reduction in word count.

There’s a last short story that’s not at all finished. Oh, it’s a complete story, it’s just terribly dull. I’ll need to either gut it or restructure it to be a stronger contender for an interesting story.

 

My Future

I mentioned in my last blog post about my concerns over taking my hobby of writing and turning it into a career.

The thought weighs on me like a heavy backpack. I wonder about whether trying to do such a thing is beyond me, but then I remember that I shouldn’t be lacking the business acumen (I studied the subject, after all), the marketing knowledge (I have a background in such), and the writing skills (I still polish these ad infinitum).

Perhaps I can make this a career. Perhaps not. However, if I don’t try, it won’t happen either way.


 

Thank you for reading.

That’s what’s happening in my life, dear reader. If you liked this, please read some of my other posts below, and make sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram. My Instagram is devoted mostly to the books I buy, and my Twitter has random RTs of interest to me (generally science and the arts).

Check out some of my book reviews:

Book Review: The Voyage of the Space Beagle by A. E. van Vogt

Book Review: Space Cadet by Robert Heinlein

Book Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

You may like more of my work on writing:

Where the First Draft Ends and Second Draft Begins

How to Tell if Your Writing is Improving

Going from Outline to Manuscript

Is Writing Every Day Necessary?

writing-923882_960_720Stephen King seems to support writing every day (“at least 1,000 words”). Far be it from me to question one of the greats, but is it really necessary to write every day to be a successful writer?

I’ve noticed improvements in my writing and thought process when I write fiction once a day. I believe King is right about that. However, the word count seems to vary.

Writing every day is one option to get into a different mindset in your writing, but it’s not the only one.

I would suggest the following, at least:

1. Schedule writing time for yourself. 

This is important for any writer to have a schedule. Yeah, I know, you can write without a schedule. It seems like I write more often when I actually have it on my calendar to write. Try it out!

2.  Try to write before bed.

This can work, although I’m not one that can do this. For me ideas flow freely before bed, but they’re a malformed blob of creativity. I need a critical eye to sort out what I can do with these ideas. For me, writing at night results in rambling, ranting blocks of text!

3. Write every day.

You can at least try it. I tried it for NaNoWriMo and it worked wonders! I started to think differently about things in my life. However, it also caused me to burn out hard after November. So much so that I hardly blogged in December!

However, the most important thing is to find what works for you.

Writer’s Burn Out and Getting Over It

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“Burn out” can happen to anyone. NaNoWriMo was that way for me. It was my first year doing it, but because of the stress and strain of everything during November it was extremely difficult.

As a result I didn’t feel like writing anything after that. I’ve played with some concepts, writing little bits down here and there and ultimately outlining a short story. But the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo has just been sitting there, untouched, since I finished.

I wanted to add a little more to it; it doesn’t feel complete or even good for that matter.

But I’m back at it. I’m sitting here working on the blog and on that novel. Once I’m done with it I’ll use what I learned to focus my efforts on a novel I’m exceedingly excited about. A novel I won’t be forced to complete in one month! I’m more excited about that than anything.

As a result I’ve learned a few things about getting over burn out:

1. Take a Break.

You have to take a break from these things or risk losing your excitement for them in general. I almost lost any desire to write, but gained it by stepping away for a few weeks from solid writing of any kind. I played some video games, read some books, and really stepped away from “writing” as a discipline for two complete weeks. Then…

2. Ease Yourself Back In.

It’s important to start getting back into it. Most likely you read, or else why would you want to write? Find something you enjoy reading and read it during this time. Make minor writing efforts, like working on a short story or poetry. Something creative that you can do without too much effort. We’re not looking for short stories from Mike Resnick, here, just simple things you may not even want to submit in the future. This is for you.

3. Find a Project You Can Be Excited About

This is the big takeaway for me. Find something that brings back that old excitement that got you into writing in the first place. Something that pushes you into doing what you love because you love the idea. I’m very excited for my newest science fiction novel idea, and it pushes me to want to write it this year.

I’ve found what works for me. If this helps you, then I’m glad. I just hope you can also learn how to get over writer’s burn out. Who knows, you  may suffer a similar fate come November 2017?

Other Projects

I’ve been pretty busy with, not just writing, but other projects I’ve got in the works. My main effort is in refining my novel from NaNoWriMo in the beginning on 2017, but I also want to make progress on a series of efforts I’m making on YouTube.

Some of you may not know this, but I do a lot on YouTube. I’ve got a film channel where I go into detail about movies as far as the film making that went into them. I attempt to make it more academic than typical reviews. My film channel is here: https://www.youtube.com/c/frankfilmfreaks

But in addition to this channel, I’ve got another few bits of writing in the works. I have a short story I really like that needs some revising, and another novel idea that will take a huge amount of effort to get right.

Add to all of this I’m reading through John Ringo’s “Posleen War” series of books while also reading through Ben Bova’s “The Craft of Writing Science Fiction That Sells”.

The other goal I have is to grow this website into something that can be used to show my new books and short stories. I’m hoping over the next two years to have some writings to advertise!

#NaNoWriMo: Second Week!

It’s the second week of #NaNoWriMo2016! I haven’t updated because I’ve been writing (obviously) but it’s a difficult thing. I noticed the last weekend I jumped up in word count to above my goal, but then I dropped below the last few days due to fatigue. It’s hard to keep writing!

But you know what? My weekend starts soon, and I’ll jump up again, then! I hope to finish this novel on time, and get some great experience for the future.

Thanks for your support! If you want to follow me on NaNoWriMo, I’m at http://nanowrimo.org/participants/frankormond

 

#NaNoWriMo: Moving to Chapter 2

I’ve moved on to my chapter two, about page 14 for me. Roughly at 3,000 words so far. I’m making progress, but I wish it was more.

It’s refreshing to write like this. I’ve never done it before. I find myself in conversation considering the best words when I talk. It’s weird.

Also I can’t spend much time on blog posts, but I wanted you to know where I am right now in the challenge. I hope to complete on time! I’m a little short for where I should be, but I will be off Friday and Saturday, so I’ll make up for it then.