When I started writing fiction, it only seemed natural to me that I should start with short stories and progress from there into writing novels. It made sense to me back then.
Sensible or not, that's what I did and the shorts came gushing out of me, but at some point I figured that writing for magazines wasn't going to help me make writing a career. For that I needed to write novels.
I started writing a novel three different times, each time I got stuck somewhere in the beginning, around the 15,000-30,000 word mark and went back to writing another short or two. It wasn't until my third attempt that I figured something out. I was writing a novel, not a very long short, which meant I had to change my whole concept of writing.
You see, shorts describe an event, or a sequence of events that happen at some point in the character's life. They describe it quickly and to the point. But novel writing is different. Writing a novel is describing everything that led to the crucial event that a short would concentrate on, it's adding a few other events, it's a plot and few subplots intertwined together, etc.
Of course I knew all that, but it wasn't wired in yet. I had to get into the novel writing state of mind. Instead of getting to the point quickly, I needed to get to the point differently. See what I'm saying? And then I discovered that there are many points along the way leading to that one big event, interesting ones, there is more character development, there are more voices.
I've always been a very quick and succinct person. I don't know how to philosophize at length (although I'm sure some of you are rolling your eyes just about now) and it shows in my writing, compact and condense. Maybe that's why I gravitated towards shorts at first.
My point? I have two:
The first is that while both forms are fiction, the mindset required for each is different.
The second is that if you are in the beginning of your writing endeavors and wish to write novels, don't start with shorts.
And if, on the other hand, you are like many of my friends who wrote their first short story after writing three novels, don't think it would be a breeze to write a short, but we'll tackle that some other day (maybe with a guest poster).
Categories: writing, short-stories, novel, process