1. pachap
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    pachap New Member

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    Novel first? Or short stories?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by pachap, May 13, 2015.

    First off, thanks for the help and responses to a question I posed yesterday.

    I am working on what will be my first book. Considering I am a noob at this, I think it has moved along very well, and I hope to wrap it up by the end of the year.

    I have some published works to my credit, but they were academic works placed in quarterly journals. I have never published any fiction.

    So my question is should I write some short stories to get my name out on the scene before I submit my novel for publishing? Or should I let the book fly when it's ready to leave the nest? I have no problems doing either one except that I don't want to feel like I am breaking the momentum that I have going right now with the novel.

    Any advice and insight is greatly appreciated.
     
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  2. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    There's no reason to stop your novel if it's going well, and also, just because you're writing a novel doesn't mean you can't also be writing short stories if you feel so inclined :)

    While having had publishing credits in fiction to your name is likely only a good thing when time comes to submit your novel, it's not essential and wouldn't guarantee that your novel would be successful. Basically, while it could help, it won't promise anything.

    If you're trying to get your name out, having a blog and a FB page is probably more valuable in that sense.
     
  3. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure the short story market is automatically easier to break into than the novel market, so I'm not sure it would make sense to write short stories as a way to help your novel get published.

    Ultimately, it will be your novel itself that will determine its own fate, so I'd recommend concentrating on making it as strong as you can, without distracting yourself with short stories.
     
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  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Submitting short stories is a great way to start, and a lot of famous writers have started this way. Having some paid credits to your name is always a plus when submitting a novel. This tells the editor/publisher/agent two things: 1) someone is willing to pay for your work and 2) readers will know who you are because they will have seen your name before. If you publish in the right places (e.g., prestigious journals), it should make publishing your book easier.

    In your particular case, if you feel like you're making great progress on your novel, concentrate on that. One of the main reasons a lot of writers start with short stories is because they aren't as long as novels and thus don't require as much time to write (relatively speaking). Starting small works for some, though it may not work for you. Good luck.
     
  5. pachap
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    pachap New Member

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    Good advice, thanks guys.

    I have a ton of short story ideas that I strongly feel would work out well. I guess that is a benefit of having a chronic illness and being doped up on painkillers all the time. On the other hand I need to contain the urge to hop projects. I feel like it is better for me to work an idea to its conclusion. I am going to keep weighing the options and see where it goes for now.
     
  6. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I won't be able to add to, but rather mainly echo what was said above.

    The pro market for short stories is pretty difficult to break into. And getting published in magazines and ezines that are similar to the genre of the novel may not translate to an agent/publisher. It may help a little or maybe not, but it won't hurt.

    While there are some similarities in writing short fiction and novel-length fiction, there are also differences, so building skill in one does not fully translate to the other.

    I'd write what you're heart is set on and what you have an interest in. The only advantage with short fiction is that there isn't as much investment in time and effort to finish one--or several--as compared to a novel.

    Good luck whichever direction you take.
     
  7. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    I started with a novel then felt overwhelmed once I realized what a monster a novel is. I became angry that I had to keep up with all kinds of spreadsheets and crap to keep track of people and places and events and things, so I decided maybe I should just work on the basics. Short stories have been my way of working my way up to a novel eventually. If I can't get a reader interested in people in places doing stuff in 5000 words or less, I might not want to kill myself writing a novel.
     
  8. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    I have no interest in short stories in a creative sense, only as a way of practising. When ever I have an idea, I think 'how would this work as a novel'. That's not to say I don't enjoy reading short stories, but my brain seems to regard it as time wasted. Much like posting in forums. My brain tells me off a lot about this. I have a novel to write.
     
  9. aguywhotypes
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    aguywhotypes Active Member

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    short stories. Why? So you can fail faster.

    When you write a novel it will probably take a good chunk of your life. Now you've spent all that time to only learn that it doesn't work and no one wants it. Now you will have to spend more time fixing it.

    Short stories allow you to to learn quicker from your mistakes because it doesn't take very long to write one. I suggest flash fiction.

    Perhaps, you may be a genius. If that is the case, forget what I said and write your novel.
     
  10. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    A lot of twaddle. Rather publish a short or three, four, five in a vibrant literary scene, narrate on radio, a script or two, than plod along with some twenty year wank to Amazon tome [for one].
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2015
  11. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    Maybe this will cause drama, but in my opinion...

    Anyone can write a short story, but how many people can say they have written a novel?
     
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  12. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    One can do both, nice pic by the way, scares me to bits. I don't think 'anyone' can write a short, or, as much as anyone can waffle away on their dwarfs in space trilogy on the pc...but then, why not do all three, no harm done.
     
  13. pachap
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    pachap New Member

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    I once told someone that, despite having been published in some academic journals, I was frighteningly capable of doing stupid crap with alarming frequency. So I can assure you, I am not a genius.

    Good advice, thanks.
     
  14. Gloria Sythe
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    Gloria Sythe Member

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    ****************************************

    Millions can make that claim. On the other hand, -how many can claim they have written a novel and have had it published by a traditional publisher-?

    Writing short stories can be said to going through an apprenticeship stage of writing. From those hundreds of short stories, you can hone your craft to a point where you can call yourself a professional writer. Wasn't it Steven King who said that "Until you have written 1.5 million words, you can't call yourself an author'? That seems like a lot words to me, however, how many nails does a apprentice carpenter have pound in before he becomes a journeyman carpenter?
     
  15. pachap
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    pachap New Member

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    I think of it as how many times an apprentice pounds his thumb before he can call himself a journeyman. But either way, it gets the point across. I do want to try and publish various short stories I have in the bank... maybe the time is right to try it now?

    I have a lot of thinking to do about this.

    Thank you all for the advice.
     
  16. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I say whatever floats your boat. But I must admit writing short stories helped me find my voice a helluva lot quicker than writing novels.
     
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  17. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's a mistake to only see the short only as a prelude to the 'long write.' Sitting on writer sites, you see these epics crafted over lifetimes, and the tragedy is that just more of it will remain unread. You can tell in a paragraph, or a sentence.

    I remember a typist friend - accosted by a security guard at our old workplace. He had this huge manuscript, hand-written, wanted her to transcribe it.

    'It's all about the sixties: mods and rockers,' said the security man.

    'Wow,' she said, 'yeah, I'll type it up.'

    Then we looked inside:

    At the end of the day I got a motorbike and I ride my motorbike to Hastings and my girlfriend on the back and we stopped for a cup of tea at the cafe and then drove on to Hastings, actually I stopped for petrol, back then you had two star, not just the four star stuff and I don't know if the garage is still there but it was Shell or Esso. I like Esso and this girl on the back of my motorbike was Margaret. I married Janet actually, went out with Margaret for a couple of years, she ran a post office with Ted, till he got the big C, this motorbike driving to Hastings with Margaret...+ 120,000 more words to type.

    Some people want to talk about novels, but I like writing and talking about writing. There is more to it than the fantasy novel which seems to be the main thrust on here, often times. Diversity is best, I suppose.
     
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  18. Dunning Kruger
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    Dunning Kruger Active Member

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    There's a quote on this forum made by a famous writer where he says the key is to write 200,000 words. It complements Malcom Gladwell's "Outliers" where, IIRC, he suggests the key is 20,000 hours to master something. The question is, where do you think you fall into the learning curve? How well does your nonfiction writing experience aid your fiction writing?

    I used to write a fair amount of nonfiction, although never published, but it didnt translate for me to fiction. I started off with a novel attempt. It sucked and I abandoned it after about 10,000 words. Then a new novel attempt. It sucked too and I quit after about 20,000 words. Then a third novel attempt. It's in progress but has been significantly rewritten several times, and I still only have about 20,000 words.

    With the third attempt, I was struggling with my voice. My story is fine but my writing was boring even me. About that time I found this site, started writing some short stories on the side, and I discovered a couple of things. First, it's nice to complete something even if its not great. It is a morale booster to be able to say you finished something. Further, its it can be frustrating and a morale killer to be stuck. By writing short stories, I've gained the mutual benefit of finishing what I started while also to move on from something that wasnt great rather than quit or be frustrated. Finally, one of my little short story attempts actually works reasonably well as the beginning of something bigger. So, I am working on it along side my previously mentioned third attempt. It probably has the best potential of anything I've done and it started as little more than a brain exercise. Essentially what I am doing is riding the momentum of inspiration while using lulls in to write short stories. It provides duel benefit of taking advantage of inspiration but also offering a vehicle to practice and experiment.

    Not sure any of this is of any value but hopefully there is a nugget here that you find helpful.
     
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  19. Dunning Kruger
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    Dunning Kruger Active Member

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    Marathon runners usually start off by running 5k or 10k races before moving on to the real thing. You should ask yourself if writing a novel is similar to running a marathon and what sort of training it requires. I'll let the established authors here comment on the validity of this analogy but I think its worth pondering, particularly for a newbie as the OP states they are.
     
  20. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Even if one did say I've written a novel, what does that mean. I have five unreadable novels. And I've come across writers on other sites waving their own whale-of-a-tales that are 800 pages of pure junk. All practice. And very time consuming practice at that. Some aren't worth editing, reading, etc. At the end you may be able to tell people you wrote a book but how worthy is it to bare that title? Nanowrite anyone?

    And I'm not saying a first novel can't be brilliant. I'm saying in all likelihood it won't be.

    Also the anyone can write a short story - I think if more newbie writers took the time to write a handful of short stories, edited them, sought feedback, polished them I think there would be less slush in the slush pile.
     
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  21. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure it's a good parallel. Maybe comparing long-distance running (in general) to sprinting would make more sense?

    So a long-distance runner would have one body type, one kind of mentality, one training regimen, one diet regimen, etc. A sprinter would probably be completely different in all of these. It doesn't mean the long-distance runner doesn't have a good kick at the end of her race where she's almost sprinting, and it doesn't mean the sprinter doesn't have the cardiovascular fitness to run a long distance if she had to. But it's not their speciality, and it's pretty rare to find a runner who can be competitive at both types of running.

    As I said upthread, I think, I've written lots of novels, but not many short stories. When I try to write short stories, I have trouble. I don't have that laser-focus intensity that makes a good short story, I think. I mean, the fewer words you have, the more important each one is. A real haiku, not one thrown together by an elementary student, can be a masterpiece even though it's incredibly short. And that's not the kind of writing that's natural to me.

    So maybe that's just me, and for most other people the skills are the same. There are certainly some writers who write great novels AND great short stories. But I think most writers specialize.
     
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  22. Dunning Kruger
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    Dunning Kruger Active Member

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    Your critique of the parallel makes sense. Sprinters and marathoners have entirely different muscle structures and even with training most likely would not be equally competitive. But does your point make more sense for someone such as yourself than it does for a newbie where one is still developing their voice, gaining experience on building a scene, and so forth? I understand that, at some point, it might be necessary to specialize. But does a newbie know enough to draw that conclusion? Isnt this something you figure out from trial and error?
     
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  23. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Quite possibly, sure. I certainly don't think there's anything wrong with experimenting and seeing what you like and what you're good at - you're right, trial and error is probably going to be the best method, there.

    But the OP, to me, made it sound as if he considers the novel to be the ultimate goal. He's not saying "I don't know what kind of writing I want to do," he's saying "Would writing and publishing short stories make it more likely that my novel will be published?"

    So if we translate that to the running analogy, he's asking whether he should enter a bunch of sprint races to make it more likely that he'll do well in a marathon.

    I don't think it's the best training technique. And, more to the point of what I think he was getting at, I don't think it's an effective marketing technique, either, not if the marathon is the ultimate goal. He most likely can't just dash off a few sprints/short stories and win/get published, not when he's competing against specialists in the field. So he'd have to put a lot of training into learning how to sprint/write short stories, and that effort would probably be better spent learning how to run long distances/write novels.

    Damn, have we milked that analogy dry yet?
     
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  24. DeadMoon
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    DeadMoon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I Like what Ray Bradbury said on this, He talked about writing one short story a week for at least a year the point being that it is impossible to write 52 bad stories, after that you will have a better understanding of writing and that in turn will help you write a novel.

    Of course this is just one perspective and really I think that if someone can then they should write a full blown novel right away.
     
  25. pachap
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    pachap New Member

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    Far be it from me to ignore the advice of one such as Ray Bradbury.
     

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