1. zilly
    Offline

    zilly Senior Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2009
    Messages:
    141
    Likes Received:
    3

    Novels vs Short Stories

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by zilly, Sep 29, 2010.

    Do you think novels or short stories are harder to write well?

    In many ways I think that a short story would be harder to write well since everything needs to be so perfectly organized and thought out. It seems like a novel can be much for forgiving in that regard. However, there is just more to a novel than a short story.

    Any way I look at it, it seems that a short story is much more difficult to have recognized than a novel. How true is that?

    Thanks,
     
  2. arron89
    Offline

    arron89 Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    2,460
    Likes Received:
    91
    Location:
    Auckland
    I'd say short stories are harder to do well. As you say, the length of novels means that they are forgiving in ways that short stories are not: you can take time to develop complex characters, compelling plots, a strong sense of style. In a short story, not a single word can be wasted or misused. Everything has to be treated in a very utilitarian way, but you still need to be able to develop the style and interest that readers would expect from a longer form.

    I also think that short stories encourage more experimentation and creativity in form and structure and style. The novel is loaded with conventions and expectations that make it potentially very constraining, and the sheer amount of work that is required is often enough to dissuade writers from taking highly experimental or unusual approaches which may prove to be failures only after tens of thousands of words have been written. Short stories carry no such risk.
     
  3. Mallory
    Offline

    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Messages:
    4,274
    Likes Received:
    191
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    It really depends. If it's something like horror or suspense, I generally prefer short stories because they can maintain that tone throughout the entire story. I also like to lay in bed and read a novel that will keep me occupied for several days.

    As far as writing, I like both. Am working on one of each currently.
     
  4. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,728
    Likes Received:
    4,826
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    I find short stories hard because they're difficult for me to conceive. Every idea I have grows and turns into something much longer than a short story. I think my natural form might be the novella - much of what I write seems to wind up in the 20,000 to 40,000 word range. Holding something down to less than, say, 8000 words is nearly impossible for me.

    With a novel, I don't feel any restrictions at all. So, even though novels are more work, I think it's easier work.
     
  5. mummymunt
    Offline

    mummymunt Member

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2010
    Messages:
    62
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Queensland, Australia
    Short Stories, Hands Down

    You have to be so much more concise with a short story. I've read plenty of great ones, but many more that were not great. Some of them, to me at least, are like a segment taken randomly from a longer story that do not stand up on their own. There doesn't seem to be any point to them, no beginning, middle, or end.
    Every word has to earn its place, justify its existence. I'm a rambler (as you may have noticed if you've read any of my posts), so I think the fact that I spent a few years working exclusively on short stories was very good training for me!
     
  6. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,352
    Likes Received:
    2,896
    Location:
    Boston
    I say short stories as well. It's hard to get the perfect ending to a story. Often times writers will ramble on or will end the story too quickly. And as others have mentioned, there is less room for mistakes in a short story.
     
  7. Manav
    Offline

    Manav Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2010
    Messages:
    839
    Likes Received:
    21
    Location:
    Imphal, India
    I have never written a novel but from what I have read, the process of writing a novel seems like a nightmare, like planning a huge wedding and making it happen. Short story to me is like a small wedding, a very private affair with very few guests. My stories have never crossed 2000 words. Also I like novels that employ the precision of short story writing.

    I am planning to write a novel, but the thought scares me.
     
  8. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    As long as I redraft personally I just find it different. Like with a novel a short story requires work and redrafting. I can hammer out the basic story for a 3000 word short story in under an hour but then work to redrafts it a couple of times and edit takes about three hours. I have been trying to do one short story competition a month - just starting to get responses back and it's looking like I am doing OK - it's worth doing to get the judges critique sheets. That has improved my skills.

    A novel shouldn't ramble either I try to make nearly every paragraph count the same skills in editing it are used in a short story for me. Have noticed a big improvement in my short stories as I have worked through the editing of my novel.
     
  9. Melzaar the Almighty
    Offline

    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,792
    Likes Received:
    55
    Location:
    UK
    I did short stories before novels in my creative writing class - still haven't done much on novels since this semester began - and though I've been writing novels (or, attempting to) all my life, pretty much, I feel like it was really after the short stories that I got any good at writing because they showed me how to look at each scene and make it do exactly what it was meant to do. I think learning short stories is essential to novels, unless you just don't have scene breaks or something, but novels really aren't essential to learning short stories. Not an easy/hard answer, but a which is most important. :p
     
  10. Motley
    Offline

    Motley Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2010
    Messages:
    125
    Likes Received:
    20
    Location:
    USA
    I personally think short stories are harder to write well, mostly because I stink at endings, and writing short stories requires writing more endings. :)

    I don't think one is intrinsically harder than the other though; it's all about personal ability.
     
  11. Whiskeysoldier
    Offline

    Whiskeysoldier New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    Messages:
    12
    Likes Received:
    0
    I would say both are tough, and it all depends upon the individual writer's abilities; his/her strengths and weaknesses. Some are more suited to one or the other. Some can successfully pull off both.

    Easy answer, I admit, but truthful. I'm in the process of writing a novel, and it is indeed a huge labor of love. Living inside your own creation for as long as it takes to finish a novel is a bit like temporary madness. You grow so close to your characters, your words, your stories, that you both love and hate them with a serious passion. The urge to throw an unfinished novel in the fire is overwhelming at times, especially when you're re-editing the same page for the fifth time, and still have half the damn book to write.

    Short stories require a different skill set, and they have their own challenges. As has been mentioned, short stories are far less forgiving; you're on a straight path and the pacing and development have to be dead-on. A novel can have a dud of a short chapter and survive. It's rare that a short story can survive a real structural mistake, since every one is so critical.

    It boils back down to the boring and general answer that neither one is objectively harder than the other. Certain aspects of an individual writer's talents and disposition can make one or the other more difficult.
     
  12. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    exactly!

    there's no either/or... some people can write novels more easily, some short stories... it depends on the individual, not the medium...
     
  13. Timshel
    Offline

    Timshel New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2010
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    0
    I love writing short stories. You get the point across, you go into some depth with characters and you can write in a week or two if you plan it out right. A novel to me needs so much more planning, so many more words, characters, dialogue... all my weaknesses.

    I'm writing my first novel in four years. Its freaking me out! Lol.
     
  14. Lee Shelly
    Offline

    Lee Shelly Member

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2010
    Messages:
    74
    Likes Received:
    0
    I'm not sure... I find that a novel is much harder to write than a short story, if only because of the time involved. You can write a draft of a short story very quickly, in a day. Come back to it later, hammer out a couple of drafts, you can even overhaul the whole thing if you like your main idea, and you still haven't even filled up your week. A novel, while longer and more 'forgiving', needs to be just as good as a short story for a lot, lot longer. It needs more time to settle in a quiet desk drawer, out of thought, and it needs a lot more revision. I've written both, and my short stories have always been fast, and easy to revise. I don't think I'm going to get the same experience when I go to revise my novel.
     
  15. Eunoia
    Offline

    Eunoia Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2010
    Messages:
    4,395
    Likes Received:
    80
    Location:
    England
    I think it depends entirely on the individual for this. But personally, I find short stories easier to write well. As for novels, I haven't properly attempted one, or rather I attempted and after a few pages or so I gave up and haven't faced going back to it yet. I'm not really sure though, both novels and short stories are hard to write well, but I think you need to be able to write short stories well to be able to write novels well.
     
  16. caesar_
    Offline

    caesar_ New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2010
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0
    I don't know what you mean by this. Just because there are more words in a novel doesn't mean that there's more to it. Look at Mills and Boon for starters, they churn them out like McDonald's. Also what do you consider to be a short story and a novel? I think this question is just too broad.
     

Share This Page