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  1. Danvok
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    Danvok Senior Member

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    If I'm aiming to be a novelist, should I still submit short stories?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Danvok, Sep 11, 2012.

    Will it with help the publication of my first novel, or subsequent ones? Walk before you can run sort of thing? Opinions/advice?
     
  2. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Any quality publishing credits you can show are a help when trying to attract interest (either from an agent or a publisher) in your novel, but will not guarantee you a sale. That said, writing short stories is different than writing a novel. It's a different approach and, I think, something of a different mind set. So, I think it really boils down to whether you feel comfortable with short stories and want to invest the time to do them right, rather than investing the time and effort in your novel. If your passion is to write a novel, detouring to write a short story or two in the hope of getting them published and having some credits to your name may be a distraction.
     
  3. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Agree with Ed. Showing you can write and publish short stories will show the agent/publisher just that - you can write and publish short stories. But as they are different animals from novels, it won't tell the agent/publisher that you've got a potentially successful novel. Not to mention that short story markets are just as difficult to break into (and there are far fewer places to do it). If you want to write short stories as well as novels, go for it. But don't go that route thinking it will make it easier to get your novel published.
     
  4. JamesOliv
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    JamesOliv Senior Member

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    Publishing credits show a few things. (for purposes of this discussion, I am only referring to reputable publishing credits. S no self published work, no unknown small press etc.)

    1. Your previous work has been publishable. So, without the aid of an agent, you were able to convince someone to publish a short story of yours based solely on its merits.

    2. The work you are sending them isn't the scribbled down rants of a person who picked up a pen for the very first time to pen this novel.

    3. Some people may have read your work. You may already have a small fan base the publisher (or agent) upon which they might build a brand. You're not a completely blank slate for branding purposes and started doing the leg work on our own.

    So, if you want to write short stories, write away. Having publications under your belt isn't going to hurt you, even if you don't use them for a query letter.
     
  5. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    Does it ever happen that if someone published quality short stories in a high status publication, that agents/publishers might actually approach them?
     
  6. JamesOliv
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    JamesOliv Senior Member

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    Anything is possible, but I don't think this is probable.

    First, short stories are not novels. Many novelists never write short stories. Many short story writers never write novels.

    Second, publishers and agents have their pick of any new talent they want. They have an entire slush pile filled with people who have already written a novel. Why go out of your way to try to take on somene who writes short stories and may not even be interested in their own complete work?

    Beyond that, even in a reputable publication, you might have dozens of authors. So one would have to really stand out to catch the attention of anyone.

    There are writers who have short story publications and awards under their belts but no agent. So why haven't they been snatched up by anyone?

    I think it may be possible. But it falls in line with doing community theatre and having a Hollywood agent discover you in your small town and take you out to CA to groom you into stardom. It's a great daydream, but I wouldn't call it a business plan.
     
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  7. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Yes. I read an interview about a year ago, and the editor mentioned that some of the writers published by the magazine (which is well-known and prestigious by the way) had been approached by agents.
     
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  8. Anthrax
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    Anthrax Member

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    I don’t think you’re going to get a consensus on this topic one way or another, but here are a few things to consider.

    There is nothing inherently wrong with short stories, I personally don’t like them because—well—there short. However, that is a personal thing. Still, short stories can do a lot of things for an author.

    They can supplement your income (not by much but it could mean the difference between having electricity that month or not)

    They get you name recognition. If you have five or six short stories published by well know publications and you submit these with your novel you will have a better chance of being published then with cold calling. Name recognition is a powerful thing. And yes, there is always a chance it could land you an agent.

    Give you novel ideas (there have been a lot of short stories that have been turned into novels)

    They teach you to tighten up your writing

    Maybe you’ll find you like writing short stories over novels

    It really depends on you. Do you have ideas in your head for short stories or do you have ideas in your head for feature length novels? If you only have short stories then short stories it should be. If you have an idea for a novel, then novel it.
     
  9. Zombie Writer
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    Zombie Writer New Member

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    I have to respectfully disagree here. Stephen King is probably the best example I can think of where a novelist is also a short-story writer. He had written dozens of short-stories for dozens of magazines before his first full novel (Carrie). He still writes short-stories and also dabbles in novellas (Four Seasons). He's even done serials (The Green Mile). Bradbury also wrote many short-stories before, during and after his first full length novel. Many of those stories were used by Rod Sterling for his Twilight Zone and Night Gallery shows.
    I would say that few novelists never write short stories and vice-versa. To say that many do not is misleading.
     
  10. JamesOliv
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    JamesOliv Senior Member

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    Stephen King writing short stories has absolutely nothing to do with an unknown author being picked up by an agent because they wrote a really good short story.


    You do realize that the Stephen Kings of the world are few and far between, right?

    Thousands of writers produce short stories. Yet, we do not see many of them publishing novels. The writing world is filled with dabblers.

    I was not saying that novelists do not write short stories. What I said was that since short stories are not novels and since most short story authors (as in, the average person publishing short stories in journals or anthologies) are not novelists, it would be odd for agents to use this as a referral source.

    Now, is it possible?

    Sure. I just received an email from an agent in rural Pennsylvania (whitepages indicated her mailing address also ties to an antique store with the same name as her agency) based on an anthology story I had published.

    I'm not saying all agents who do this approach are bad. I'm not even saying this agent is "bad." what I'm saying is that agents are paid to sell their clients manuscripts. Period. Most agents dedicate very little time to "seeking" new talent. Instead they focus on professional networking and well, selling manuscripts.

    If your agent is Facebook stalking short story writers (or running an antique shop on the side) it begs the question "will this person have the resources, contacts and sheer clout to sell my work?"
     
  11. Danvok
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    Danvok Senior Member

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    Good answers, everybody!

    Thanks. Really made me think. However, I think I'm tilting towards just writing novels now.
     
  12. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    Essentially, a novel is a series of short stories, whose plot forms one cohesive story line.

    I personally think writing short stories are good practice for the beginner, though they are the hardest of the two mediums to master, they also serve as a stepping stone where one can hone their skill, without becoming overwhelmed. If you can apply the kind of flow necessary for a short to a novel, think of what you could take to a chapter.

    Also, do you want to spend a full year writing a manuscript that's trash, reinforcing bad habits, not learning from mistakes? Or do you think, for the beginner, it's much more practical to churn out stories that can be read in one setting, feedback quickly recieved, mistakes fixed and learned, without wasting months of your life or learning a thing? It's also good practice for generating ideas. Practicing in short stories allows one to constantly run through ideas. Sitting on a novel inhibits idea generation, unless you have multiple projects going on at once, guranteed to be exhausting for the beginner. Taking your time with such a project is only going to cause you to be focused on one idea, when you should be working on how to come up with them in the first place.

    Sure, you make one sale, that's great, but they are always going to want to know if you are capable of more, and if you've never practiced, you won't be able to perform. "I'm sorry, I spent the last six months working on that story, and never gave any thought to others."

    That's just my opinion.

    As a writer, I believe one should be able to write successfully (though you may be stronger in some areas, and weaker in others ) in most, if not all the mediums: The Essay, The Play, The Screenplay, The Short, The Novel, The Novella etc.

    and

    I'm not sure how the discussion started talking about how many novelists never become short story writers, or how many short story writers never become novelists. I can name a few authors right now who have published many short stories, as well as novels:

    Hemingway
    Bradbury
    Nobokov
    Vonnegut
    Heinlein
    Maugham
    Conrad

    And that's just a few...
     
  13. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    GoldenGhost - I have to disagree with "a novel is a series of short stories, whose plot forms one cohesive story line". That's really over-simplifying things (and not really accurate), and, although I suppose a novel could be done that way, I'm not sure the more successful ones are.

    Also, I don't think anyone said it's impossible to be able to write both short stories and novels well. What's been said is that they are different animals and not everyone can do both.
     
  14. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    Explain to me how it is not? A short is a condensed story with a beginning middle and end...

    Chapters have an introduction, that needs to make sense, whether it's an extension of something that previously happened, or another scene entirely. There's something that needs to be achieved in the chapter in order to progress the story, otherwise it wouldn't have it's own section, nor would it be in the book, and then it has to wrap up, with either that thing achieved, not achieved, or the optioin left hanging, and the book enters a different scene. Either way, it's done, otherwise you would still be writing the same chapter... or the novel would be just one long chapter...

    You string these together, no matter how complex the plot, or the sub-plots, for they are all geared towards the main story line, and propel the reader towards the final ending, when the story is no more.

    There's always direction, and novels always move forward, and even though there's always something different happening from scene to scene, it still moves forward. Yes, the chapters sometimes blend together, but if you take a close look, I can gurantee you'll find a beginning/middle/end to each chapter.

    That is exactly why I stated some are stronger in other mediums than others. I wasn't debating them being 'different animals'. I simply addressed the fact that someone said 'Many novelists never writer short stories and many short story writers never write novels."

    Which is simply untrue, for the bulk of whose prose I respect anyway.

    Writing is writing.
     
  15. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    Even though I want to write a novel, I've decided not to even attempt it until my short story, even flash fiction, writing chops are better. No point embarking on a massive writing task if my skills aren't up to it.

    I'm sure when I try writing a novel, there will be an additional learning curve. But I'm also sure that there's much I can learn and improve working on shorter pieces.
     
  16. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    This my opinion, for what it's worth: No matter what you end up writing as your 'medium of choice', whether short stories or novels, short stories, for the aspiring and beginning writer, are good practice.

    One of the greatest tools a writer has, is his ability to generate ideas, coupled with an ability to distinguish bad ideas from great ones. Short stories help you sift through the water in order to find those bits of gold that are interesting and worth selling. Novels are huge endeavours and are exhausting, no matter the skill of the author undertaking such a feat. They need serious attention to detail. If you're just starting out, attempting to hone your pen to a fine and publishable point, would you rather spend your time writing trash prose on ideas no agent is going to want to even consider? Or do you want to wade through swamps of short stories, practicing, editing, moving forward through idea after idea, sharpening your awareness for what's good and what isn't, while progressing all the way?

    To me, the latter seems like the best idea.

    If you write how I do, which is horribly, novels are a complete waste of time, at least, in this stage of my skill.

    But then again, maybe I just don't see the logic behind spending large amounts of time on novels that aren't salvagable, or worth writing, yet.
     
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  17. JamesOliv
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    JamesOliv Senior Member

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    I really think you misinterpreted my statement about writers of sort stories writing novels. Actually, I am positive that you did. There are thousands of short story contributors who never write novels. Likewise, there are many novelists who either didn't sharpen their teeth on short stories or wrote significantly more novels than they did short stories.

    You cited as "proof" against my assertion a list of incredibly famous authors who represent a very small portion of the great minority that is "writers who make their living off of writing fiction." I was not referring to famous authors. I wasnt talking about the Stephen Kings and Ernest Hemingways of the world. I was talking about many of the thousands of authors who contribute to anthologies and never publish a novel. I was further talking about there being people who publish novels and no short stories. They exist. Whether they are on your reading list is irrelevant.
     
  18. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    But isn't that agreeing that not all writers can write novels, but can write short stories? And thus, the reverse must also be true. And maybe your problem with writing novels is that you treat them as a series of short stories strung together into a longer one - which they are not.

    At any rate, I know of (and know personally) several writers who can write one but not the other. That, in itself, belies this idea that any writer can write both. And, as JamesOlive also pointed out, just because your list of writers includes those who can do both does not mean that all do.
     
  19. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    I wouldn't say I misinterpreted what you said. I will say, however, that the feeling I got from your posts was that it was an impossible thing to do, and my 'list' of examples, their brilliance irrelevant, was simply attempting to prove that it is possible.

    I also stated my opinion, which is: writers should not limit themselves to one form of prose, though they may be stronger in one area than in others, regardless of what form they get published.

    But this is also veering off of the OP's direction, which I also adressed, in the form of an opinion. I think writing shorts are a great form of practice before attempting the novel.
    And no, it is not, for I said it was based on my skill and that once my skill has improved, I will attempt the novel. I think telling the beginning writer to dive head first into novels is horrible advice, and it should not be encouraged. If you think otherwise, and would rather them write out horrible ideas, with more than likely horrible prose, while wasting their time, then I will agree to disagree.
     
  20. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    If they're going to write out horrible ideas with horrible prose, it will happen whether it's a short story or a novel. But most novelists will tell you that their first few novels were crap. Why? Because they were learning how to write a novel. Perfecting the short story is not going to teach you how to write a novel. It can teach you basic writing skills, just as writing a novel will, but the skills and techniques needed for short stories are different than the skills and techniques needed for a novel. You admit your novels aren't that great - maybe it's because of your philosophy toward writing them.
     
  21. JamesOliv
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    JamesOliv Senior Member

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    As my statement Neither stated, nor intended to imply, that such a thing was impossible, your "feeling" was clearly based on a misinterpretation of what had been said.

    Moving on.

    A short story is a complete story designed to be read in one sitting. If you string a series of short stories together, you will end up with a very long chain of complete stories. The result would be each chapter would present an issue, the story would arc and then come to a resolution prior to the next chapter. So, rather than feeling like a leisurely hike over a small but lovely hill, it will be like driving over a series of speed bumps.

    Please note, that I am not saying it cannot, under any circumstances be done. But your statement:

    "a novel is a series of short stories..." is false. Otherwise, ANY novel could be successfully broken up into a series of short stories AND they would have to be able to function independently without losing any quality.

    As your opinion seems to differ from the "norms" of novel writing, we may all need to see examples of what you are talking about to fully grasp it. Do you have examples?
     
  22. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Thread closed.
     
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