Thursday, April 22, 2010

Short Stories vs. Novels

My apologies, friends, for my absence yesterday. And for my lack of an "R" entry - but if it counts for anything, I was on a Road trip to Atlanta, so at least I was doing something R-oriented, right?

I'm nearing the end of the first draft of my novel, and I've been thinking about what I'm going to do during the month or so it's sitting in a drawer, breathing and resting and aging accordingly. I do have a few short story ideas rolling around in my head; one particular brainstorm involves a rental van and a haunted DVD player, which made me laugh maniacally for about fifteen minutes when I thought of it.

I'm looking forward to trying my hand at some new short stories; it'll be a nice change from the looooooooong project of the novel. But I'm wondering if I'll be able to get back into composing short pieces as easily as I once did. I've mentioned before on my blog how once I began writing the novel I realized I've been a long-distance writer all this time. Writing a book gives me the chance to tell the reader everything, I mean everything I want to about back story, character histories, quirks and tiny details. I can meditate upon anything I want, take as long as I need to explain it, and not have to worry that I'm getting too wordy.

Short stories are hard already because they're a single vital punch to the artistic senses. In 7,500 words or less I have to make my reader wholly believe something and experience it vividly - so much so that they'll want to read it again. Everything is stripped down and left with its bare bones gleaming. Nuances are placed to the side in favor of slick prose and snappy dialogue. Concepts must be introduced and expounded upon in paragraphs, not pages.

But on the other hand, short stories meet my need for (nearly) instant gratification. Dependent on how long the project is, I can finish the first draft in a matter of hours or days - not months or years, like a novel. Revision is so much less of a hassle. Continuity issues are much easier to spot and fix. And if you get to the end of twelve pages and decide the story is a real stinker, it's not a heartbreak - it's a minor setback.

It'll be interesting to return to the world of short story composition next month. I'm looking forward to comparing and contrasting novel writing and short writing when the time comes. What about you? Which medium do you prefer to write in?

17 comments:

Caledonia Lass said...

I started off with short stories. I even wrote my first rough draft in short story chapters that intertwined to tell the whole story. When I went back over it to revise, there were lots of holes but I fixed them easily.

Now, it is easier to write long length works. To go back to short stories is relatively easy for me. It means I get to flex my writing skills and usually they come out pretty darn good.

Good luck!

Beth said...

I've never written anything longer than a short story, or long blog post, but this was an interesting look into how it would differ from the commitment to a longer piece of work. Just not sure I have it in me but I'm glad others do since I LOVE books! :)

hampshireflyer said...

At the moment I feel like I've got too many ideas to pack into one novel, so short stories it is. Themes one probably *could* herd all into one place, but if I were to work on a novel at the moment it would just be settings soup...

sarahjayne smythe said...

I've recently gone back to short stories, and have actually submitted one to a lit mag while I'm trying to work on the novel. I love short stories, but I wasn't really sure there was much market for them before. We'll see. :)

WELCOME TO MY WORLD OF POETRY: said...

I wish you well with your book. also any short story you may write.

I can remember Atlanta airport, we stopped off there on our way to Memphis some years back.That was my first taste of American soil.

Take care.
Yvonne.

Wendy Ramer said...

Novels. Like you said, I've got too much to say to squeeze into 7500 words or less.

Laura Marcella said...

I'm writing short stories right now. In college, my creative writing professor suggested we submit short stories to literary magazines to get publication credits and build a portfolio. When I finished my first novel last November (during NaNo!), I realized how much I enjoyed novel writing! I'm still keeping at it with short stories because I don't like to quit when I set a goal for myself (in this case: publication literary journals), but I'm itching to get started on a couple novel ideas. So I don't know, I might set aside my short stories for awhile, write a novel, and see what happens...

Palindrome said...

I like both. I write short stories or flash fiction when I just need a boost, creatively. But I come up with novel ideas more often than shorts. I'm pretty good and hammering out something from a prompt or picture.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've only written a couple short stories. Think I like the longer format so the story and characters have more time to develop.

Road trip to Atlanta definitely takes care of R for you!

Ellie said...

I would think personality and writing style would have a lot to do with preference.
Short story would be easier to tidy up. I prefer the development of the novel. Short stories, just get you hooked and then it is over and tied all up with a neat bow.

Good Luck~

Susan Fields said...

Now that I'm used to writing novels, I find short stories frustrating. I like things to be involved and deep and lots of subplots, etc. When I do write a short story, however, I learn to appreciate each word and make it count.

Al said...

I am so wrapped up in writing novels at the moment I can't imagine writing anything shorter.
Oh, except for blog posts :)

Al

Publish or Perish

Watery Tart said...

I don't have the gift of brevity... I can't POSSIBLY get to the point in just a few pages. I've written a few nice 'slice of life' pieces, but a full fledged story? Takes a minimum of 70K in my opinion--teehee.

I also prefer READING longer stories, mostly because I REALLY dig in depth character stuff--I really want to KNOW my MC. I've read a very few shorts from gifted writers that do that, but MOSTLY there is only time for the conflict and resolution.

I ALSO, love a very tangled plot. I want little pieces to be littered over many pages and then to elegantly ALL come together (maybe not for a TIDY ending,but for an ending that I understand how the parts led to it)

Talli Roland said...

I have never written a short story - not since high school, anyway! I should try - I've heard it's great practice for novels!

Have a great weekend.

Lola Sharp said...

To show brevity: What Hart/Watery Tart said so well! ;)

(that's probably cheating, right?)

Nadeem1414 said...

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The Alliterative Allomorph said...

I can't stand twitter so I thought I'd comment on this post! ;)

I've only ever written one proper short story in my life, which I posted for S day too :) So I guess I prefer novel writing. I think I like not having the burden of having to finish it quickly. Yep, that's me - lazy.