1. SuttonMichael254
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    SuttonMichael254 Active Member

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    Short stories before novel?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by SuttonMichael254, Jan 6, 2014.

    Iv done some research and have read that it is better to go ahead and write short stories... get them published so you can have some sort of publishing credit in the literarly journals. Then start your novel. When I first started writing I went straight to the novels. In the past few years I have 4 short stories that I have written but have never considered getting them published Just wondering what yalls perspective was on this concept. Would it be productive to start with the short stories. I saw a speech from an author who said it is better to spend a week on a short story for a year than it is to spend 3 years on a novel that is crap. Any thoughts?
     
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  2. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    This has been discussed before. I think it can be the case, but not necessarily the case for everyone. Short stories and novels are different, and not everyone who can do one can do the other. That said, writing short stories certainly is good writing practice, and it is easier to get a short story published than it is to get a novel published. It is always better, when seeking an agent (if you're going the traditional publishing route) to be able to say that you've had stories published (and be able to say where).

    If you think your shorts are good, go ahead and try to get them published.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I've always liked this idea. Publishing stories is a great way of building your credentials and getting your name out there. It may even help when it comes time to publish a novel. Try to aim for paying and reputable markets if possible. There's no reason to sell yourself short.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Even if you don't publish them, short stories are a good way to master the fundamentals, with less of a commitment on each piece than if you had plunged into a novel from the start. Yes, novels are somewhat different from novels, but there are still plenty of skills to master that are common to both.
     
  5. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    I have to say, if you've had no success getting a publisher to say yes to the novels, using the skills that haven't yielded a novel sale aren't going to get a yes for the shorts.

    Before that acquiring editor gets to your publishing history they're going to read the blurb. Most rejects come right there. Assuming the blurb entices, many agents turn to the sample then, without reading further, on the theory that if you can't write why read the rest of the letter? You might have had ten shorts accepted but if the opening pages of the novel aren't compelling, who cares what you've sold. So focus on entertaining your reader from the top of page one. Make them need to turn to page two, and three. Dothat and it will sell.

    As a general thing, I recommend that any writer try their hand at short stories because there is nothing like having a 3130 word manuscript when the editor wanted a max of 3000 words to teach you what matters and what can be trimmed.
     
  6. Siena
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    Siena Active Member

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    Totally agree.

    IMO people allow themselves far too much time to write a novel. Which means you encounter people who have been "working on their first draft" for several years. Which is a little bit crazy.
     
  7. Motley
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    Motley Active Member

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    This, really. You still need the same quality writing skills to publish short stories, at least anywhere that will give you a professional credit.
     
  8. criticalsexualmass
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    criticalsexualmass Active Member

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    It comes down to accomplishment, in a way. I sat down to write a short story in April and had finished a novel by June. I spent the next 6 months trying to perfect it. Turns out that the story line itself is flawed in such a way that I couldn't sell it, especially as an unpublished author. While i got a lot of benefit from the time i spent on the work, I have no publishing credit and really nothing "finished" from that 8 months of pretty damned hard work. Had I not gone off on making this a life story and stuck with the original design of making this a short story, I could have had a complete draft, learned my lesson, and had 6 months to work on something that had a better chance of success. I learned, but I didn't accomplish.

    So, my new year is going to be dedicated to shorter works. Instead of outlining bios for possible agents I'll be keeping my eyes open for writing contests and reading the submissions requirements for periodical publication. This way, even when I lay an egg I don't have most of a year dedicated to that ovum.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Beg to differ. That first novel is unique in that the writer is discovering how much he or she still has to learn, and is busily learning those lessons and developing skills.
     
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  10. Passero
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    Passero Member

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    I am very new at writing myself and I made up my mind to start with writing short stories. To be honest, I even enjoy reading short stories a lot. Sometimes more than reading a novel.

    I'm also wondering if it's worth publishing a book of short stories.
    Currently I'm reading A Blink of the Screen: Collected Short Fiction from Terry Pratchett. I'm really enjoying his short writings.
    I also enjoyed Vacuum Diagrams from Stephen Baxter which are short stories from his Xeelee Omnibus world. In this one I really like the concept of short stories happening in the same world.
    I believe Tolkien also has written short stories from Middle Earth.

    Although they have big novels behind them to support them I still love the concept on their own without the novels.
     
  11. AJC
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    AJC Active Member

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    I've yet to attempt to write a novel. I find short stories much more manageable, and I imagine a lot of people in my position (beginners) feel the same way. Writing a novel seems like a daunting task, and I have nothing but admiration for people who actually finish one. I'm going to continue to write short stories until I feel like I have the talent and the stamina to write a novel.
     
  12. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    I jumped right in with a novel. I don't usually read short stories, so it seemed more natural to write a novel.
     
  13. SuttonMichael254
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    SuttonMichael254 Active Member

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    myself as well.... I would sit down and make the whole outline of the story.. scene by scene, and I was able to deliver. I felt restricted by limiting my story to a few pages.
    My first short story came from me being out in the field and my wife was taking an English class, and she had to make a short creative writing story. She is so busy with the kids and house work I told her I would do it. I was working night shift and wireline was stuck so I had nothing but time. So I banged a short story out in about 2 hours. (judge me is you want lol)
    come to find out the teacher loved it and said it should be published. So I know I got it, I just think a whole novel would be more rewarding. But at the same time I have wrote 3 more, and I like it. Its almost a challenge. like.... how short can you make it to get your story across....
    I don't know... thank you for all your responses it has shed light on my question.... I Fuc**** love it here lol
     
  14. Nyghtfall
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    Nyghtfall Member

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    Being a new writer myself, I'm starting with short stories so I can work on the fundamentals of storytelling and develop my daily writing routine without overwhelming myself with my first novel.

    My long-term goal is to publish a collection of shorts, similar to what Clive Barker did with his Books of Blood series before penning The Damnation Game.
     
  15. rasmanisar
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    rasmanisar Active Member

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    My advice would be to just try it, and not worry about the commitment. If you come up with a really good concept and know you will have fun writing it, then that is all you need.
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Not really. You also need to learn the fundamentals, and that takes practice. If you wear yourself out trying to get that first novel straightened out, you may never get your momentum back.
     
  17. criticalsexualmass
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    criticalsexualmass Active Member

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    that happened to me, and I've still not recovered. It's hard to toss an idea when it doesn't work. It's actually even harder to sit down in front of the computer and start a new project when you've spent a ton of time on that idea.
     
  18. marshipan
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    marshipan Member

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    I wandered into novel writing as a naive child, thinking short stories were only for learning. Feeling as if I had graduated from a certain level of learning (since I had graduated undergrad hahaha), there was no question in my mind that the only thing I should be writing is a novel...A few years later, and I've almost forgotten I'm a writer! I have completed nothing but a spiral notebook full of ideas. I'm back on short stories indefinitely and now I'm unsure if I'll ever really have the mind to grasp the project of writing a novel as a whole. Will likely have to trick myself into thinking it's a series of short stories that just happen to be connected, hehe.

    So, from a purely writing standpoint without respect to publishing, short stories before novel (yes please, thank you).
     
  19. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    I'm starting to wonder if I'm being naive, but I started with a novel a year ago and I'm still at it. I don't see the big deal. I know I'll make mistakes, but I don't have a problem rewriting to fix them.

    (I did write some fanfic ten years ago, so I guess I got some prior experience.)
     
  20. Nyghtfall
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    Nyghtfall Member

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    Not every idea needs a novel-length story to be told. That's what shorts are for.
     
  21. marshipan
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    marshipan Member

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    Just like a 5k is still a race, but I still thought to be a a more respected and real (*eyeroll*) runner I needed to do a half marathon. Haha! No worries, I realize those were immature thoughts now! :)
     
  22. Keitsumah
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    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

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    I have to say this from the point of view of a novel-type writer: sometimes one thing is harder than the other. But doing the other is good practice regardless.

    I personally prefer to do novels, and flesh the plots out a whole lot further than a short story allows. However, i have written three short stories and entered them in contests at my high school after being promoted by one of my teachers. The first one was a dud, and the second i got third place with and got published in an anthology. I am entering the third one in the same contest for yet the third year, this time with a western theme, and I am fairly confident that it will place.

    Overall, short stories (especially ones that have a 2k word limit) force me to just think of one event and work with it. It causes me to want to pull my hair out at times, but it has helped me get much more focused writing in my novels.

    Now, as for novels to short stories... I think novels just give you the freedom to put in a lot of details and the past of the character in, and you can figure out how to meld that into a short story after you learn to cut down on the number of words. Otherwise, I'm not really sure exactly how a novel helps other than figuring out how to create a much more elaborate plot.
     
  23. Pythonforger
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    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

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    I can say that since I don't have the mental discipline to write a novel, I'm doing a book of short stories first and "working up" to it.
     
  24. Poziga
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    Poziga Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've also been thinking about that. I'm a novice at writing myself and I write down ideas, which I think would be good, in a little notebook. I've never read short stories and I would really like to write novels, probably nothing else but novels. But since I'm new to writing I'm afraid I will "ruin the idea" because I don't think I can write good enough to be published. So I don't write currently, because I'm not attracted to the thought of writing a short story, but I'm scared of writing a novel, which kinda sucks. :p

    I did write two 3-pages long short stories and one for current science fiction contest, so that is good.

    But luckily I pulled myself together and decided to write a novel after my finals, I even arranged a meeting with a senior citizen for an interview (the story is happening during World War 2, so I want to have specific informations on how people lived during that time in my city).

    Still, I'm scared of ruining the idea. But if it won't be published I can always return to it later on, right? :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2014
  25. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I feel a bit cautious here, because I can sense the approach of flame-throwers, but although there are many authors out there who write both short stories and novels, each does require a different approach. There is a lot more that separates them besides just length. Actually, the only things they absolutely have in common is both require a good vocabulary, and the command of spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. Each requires separate learning and practicing time to perfect the skills you will need to write good ones.

    I know he's fallen out of favour just now (with me as well) because of some of his social/political views, but one of my favourite 'how-to-write' authors—who has made himself a fortune actually selling novels and short stories in several genres—is Orson Scott Card.

    Here is something he wrote which pertains to this thread:

    "Short stories are designed to deliver their impact in as few pages as possible. A tremendous amount is left out, and a good short story writer learns to include only the most essential information—only what he needs to create mood, get the facts across, and prepare the reader for the climax.

    "But novels have more space, more time. When readers sit down with a book, they are committing several hours of their lives to reading it. They will stay with you for much more peripheral material; they expect, in return, that you will provide them with a fuller experience than they could possibly get from a short story." - The Writer's Digest Handbook of Novel Writing, edited by Tom Clark, William Brohaugh, Bruce Woods, Bill Strickland and Peter Blocksom, Writer's Digest Books, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1992, p 30.

    Card then goes on to explain how difficult it was for him to shift from writing the short story to writing the novel ...and now that he's a 'novelist,' he finds it very difficult to shift back. They are really two different mediums. As different as poetry is from a short story, or a screenplay is different from a novel.

    Of course it's easier to get a short story published, win a contest or whatever, than it is to publish a first-time novel ...because a short story is ...short ...and its length suits the ephemeral publications it will appear in. But it's not necessarily a stepping-stone to writing a novel.

    Basically, as Card points out, you will need to 'unlearn' short story writing techniques before you can move on to learn how to write a good novel.
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2014
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