1. paperbd
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    paperbd New Member

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    Novel vs. Short Story Writing

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by paperbd, Jul 8, 2011.

    When I started writing, like many others, I'd come up with a story, keep at it for a while, and then lose interest and start something new. They were always long, novel-length ideas. Finally I kept going with one, and years later, here I am writing its third draft.

    I've heard it's good for a novel writer to get some short stories out there, to start making a name for themselves and be more likely to be picked up by a publisher. For that reason, and to have smaller writing projects going so that I can write new stuff (it's tiring editing all the time), I want to start writing more short stories.

    My problem is that every time I come up with a new idea, they tend to be long stories, much too long to be considered a "short story." Maybe this is because I read a lot of novels, and not many short stories, but I feel like I don't have a good grasp of how to come up with one.

    For those of you who write short stories: do you start with a scene? a character? a theme? What's the best way to go about developing a short story?
     
  2. Lord Malum
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    Lord Malum Senior Member

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    I personally haven't written very many short stories. My suggestion is to read lots and lots and lots of short stories. Study them. Break them down. Rewrite them in your own words (but never with intent to sell the finished product, this is just an exercise). Learn everything you can. Knowledge is power and all that. Then sit down and try writing your own short story. Start with whatever feels natural whether it be a character, theme, scene, or whatever. The key is to know your craft and then perform your craft.
     
  3. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    paperbd,

    First, getting short stories published in markets that will have a major influence on a potential publisher picking up your novel isn't necessarily easy. There is a lot of competition for those publication slots, and pro-rate markets are becoming fewer and fewer. A semi-pro market sale is better than a non-paying market (in most instances).

    The advantage of short fiction vs. novel-length is that it takes far less time to complete a short story than it does a novel, so you can put more works out there to be considered--but so can everyone else with that same notion or goal.

    Short stories are far more limited with respect to the scope. Less backstory, fewer characters, less complex conflict or problem to overcome. YOu have to get right to it, the first page, the first 50 words.

    The best way to learn to write short stories is to read short stories. But don't read them for enjoyment. Study them. See how the authors structured them, moved them forward, managed characterization and resolution of the conflict in under 5000 words.

    In the end, it's the quality of your novel, not that you've published some short stories that will sell the novel. The fact that you have won't hurt and might get an agent or editor to pay a little more attention to your submission, but it won't sell it.
     
  4. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    Speaking for myself, I start with a theme as "the message" is central to WHY I write in the first place. Most of my short stories are around 1000 words, see www.leonardopisano.com

    Re a novel, I think it's important to have a basic plot and an outline. Then I create a few suitable characters, and believe it or not, they push the story forward. Sometimes I divert from the original idea, but as long as the higher order goal is met, I don't really care.
    As an advice, I believe you need to develop your own grip. Don't listen too much to others, not even to this advice ;-) Just go for it with courage, determination and perseverance.

    HTH
     
  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Like the OP, my tendency is to conceive long, detailed story lines. I've written short stories, but I tend to struggle with them. There is a brevity one needs for short stories that I just don't seem to have.

    If you are in the third draft of your novel, I would stick with that and see it to its conclusion. I wouldn't put it aside and start writing in a new area on the hope that some of my stories might get published and that might make it a bit easier to get my novel published. That time, I think, would be much better spent making the novel as good as it could be.

    Good luck.
     
  6. Jonalexher
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    Jonalexher Contributing Member

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    I like starting with a thematic scene, and I create the story as I go on. (Stephen King stated he does this too) It's like being the first reader of your own story.
    and I would recommend reading Full Dark, No Stars by King, a bit dark but they're not novels, you might be interested.
     
  7. another wasted day
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    another wasted day Member

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    It might help to have rules set in place for yourself before you begin to write your short story. For example, imposing a word limit, a theme etc. Write the story as if you are submitting to a contest/judging pannel with predetermined guidelines.
     
  8. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is not necessarily true. Some writers are simply more adept at writing in the short or long form and do not do well in the other. So to say someone who is quite skilled at writing novels but simply does not have the mind set to craft a really good short should be trying to publish shorts is ... well ... rubbish. Novels and shorts 'play' by a whole different set of rules. In a novel, you have the breathing room to add broad descriptions and entertaining action scenes. You can meander along red herrings and breed insight into your characters. With a short story, you don't have that luxury. By virtue of the word limit, you have to be more concise and precise in your descriptions, actions, dialog. Everything has to count for something to progress the story.

    Now, if you are equally skilled at one as with the other then go for it. If you just want to stretch yourself a bit and learn to write a good short, more power to you. But, again, to say one 'should' do this or that in order to be successful at something else just doesn't make sense and could, in fact, just lead you to lots of frustration. And we all know writers have enough of that without creating more.
     
  9. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Two suggestions: Everything's Eventual, by Stephen King. I don't know about Full Dark, No Stars, but I'm unwilling to believe it to be better than Everything's Eventual. That was a brilliant set of short stories.

    Also, Nocturnes by John Connolly.

    Both those books contain brilliant short stories; shining examples as to what potential there is in such a medium.
     
  10. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Try to write your stories with a particular market in mind. For example, one magazine I've been lucky with only accepts either 1 or 2,000 word stories because of the way it fits to the page. Any more or less, they don't even read your submission. You also ought to read several copies of the magazine to get an idea of what type of thing the editors prefer. Bear in mind that e.g. a Christmas-themed or summer romance story needs to be submitted about 3-4 months in advance so it can appear at the right time.

    As well as this, keep track of competitions out there. There are quite a few. They will also have specific lengths and sometimes themes--but if you get an idea for a story, still go ahead and write it. Just keep it until you think it's right for a particular competition. You can always tweak it a bit to make it fit better. You can up your chances of winning if you check out the judges and see what stories they selected in previous competitions, e.g. do they like feel-good stories, first person etc etc.
     
  11. paperbd
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    paperbd New Member

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    Thanks, guys. I don't plan on setting my novel aside at all, I just sometimes feel like writing something new that won't take quite so long to polish. I'd like to try my hand at short stories. I suppose I can't count on them getting published to help my novel, but I think it'd be fun just to try and write one well.

    I'll note the suggested books. I recently read King's On Writing and found it very inspirational. I liked his idea of starting a story with a scene, a situation, and seeing how the characters deal with it. I've also read a short story collection by Neil Gaiman, one of my favorite authors, and enjoyed them. I should maybe re-read them and study them a bit.
     
  12. BobLobLaw
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    BobLobLaw Member

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    I started out as a short story writer and it kept getting longer until I wrote my first full-length novel.
     

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