1. Donal
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    Donal Contributing Member

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    Should I hold off on my first novel?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Donal, Jul 16, 2010.

    Having always wanted to write I have been working on a novel for a few weeks. I drew inspiration from a situation that an acquaintance found himself in (and slightly stretched it out to make more conflict etc). I've been having a great time working out who the characters are, what will happen to them etc. However I am almost a complete rookie at writing.

    Should I write a few short stories on this site, read other peoples works, critique other works here and then resume the novel. Or should I plunge ahead with the novel under the mantra of "you learn from your mistakes".

    Thanks

    Donal
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It doesn't have to be an either/or.

    Your novel will need revision passes. Guaranteed. So keep at it and get your first draft finished.

    Meanwhile, practice with short stories. There are many skills you can hone this way that will serve you well when you proofread and revise your manuscript.
     
  3. Victorian girl
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    Victorian girl Member

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    Hi.

    Why don`t you do both? We learn as we go but if you get your initial ideas down (even in a notebook so you don`t lose any ideas or scenes you come up with), then you will feel as though you are making progress. Any problems or queries you have this site is here for you. But yes, I would start posting short stories or even snippets of your writing once you have had some time to practice, then others can help
     
  4. BlueWolf
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    BlueWolf Banned

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    As has been said, you write it.

    Doesn't matter you are a 'newbie' we all were at one point, and the only way to learn is to hone your skills in telling a story.
     
  5. Donal
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    Donal Contributing Member

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    Thanks Blue. Ill be writing it and working away on short stories also.
     
  6. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I also say write it. If you get stuck on certain parts of the plot but you have a good scene in mind for something to happen later, write that, and you can arrange it all in order later. And even if it isn't good at first, you'll have something there to revise later. Writing it for the 1st time is the hard part. I know you didn't ask about that specifically, but I thought I'd share it since it sometimes happens to me.

    Writing short stories is a good idea too -- to hone your writing skills, as has been mentioned, but I've also heard that it's easier to publish a novel if you've published short stories in the past. "Getting your name out there" so to speak.

    Good luck!
     
  7. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Do both. It's like exercise. You won't get stronger if you don't do it. It's going to need revisions either way. I've been writing seriously since I was thirteen I'm now twenty two and I still have to revise my stuff. Yes, it's significantly better now than it was then but it still needs revisions and editing. It always will. So just go for it. :)
     
  8. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    What I found when I wrote my book was that I got better at writing as I went, so that by the time I finished, I went back and changed the first half!! I am a strong believer that the more you write, the better you will get (and the more you read, the better at writing you will get) so do as much as you can as often as you can - short stories, long stories, anything!

    Reminds me of some great tips for writing from Neil Gaiman as part of the Guardian's 'Top 10 Tips for Writers'. His first two were:
    1) Write
    2) Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.
     
  9. MissBelle
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    MissBelle Member

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    Wow, it is great that your writing a novel. Keep working on it. It might not be perfect, but that is what revisions are for. You will learn from the process.
     
  10. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Whenever the question is "To write, or not to write?" the answer is always: Write!

    Go ahead and write it. You don't have to show it to anybody if you're not happy with it. Just write it. Write it and revise it until you're happy with it.

    John F. Kennedy said something inspirational about the race to the moon. It went something like this: "I can't guarantee that we'll win this race, but if we don't make the effort, I CAN guarantee that we will lose." Maybe you can't guarantee that your novel will be as good as you want it to be, but you CAN guarantee that if you don't write it, it won't even exist, so ...

    Write, dammit!
     
  11. Fantasy of You
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    Fantasy of You Banned

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    Personally, I think anyone jumping into a novel before first writing short stories is wasting their time. Short stories allow you to improve your writing much faster than writing an entire novel.
     
  12. izanobu
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    izanobu Senior Member

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    Some people just can't write short stories, however. There are writers out there who just think in long-form. That's okay. You'll learn best by doing, so write what you want to write :)
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the major benefit in starting out with short stories, in order to hone your basic writing skills, is that it won't take a year or more to find out your lack of them made it a waste of time and effort...
     
  14. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I started off writing my first novel only six months ago and my writing skills improved considerably just by asking my husband to review it, Writing ten pages a day my work improved by the end of the first draft, and my second draft is now starting to read like a novel. But then I am happy to delete over 150 pages and start again

    I find it much easier than writing short stories also the skills are very different depending on what you are writing.
     
  15. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Yeah I've never been able to write short stories very well. It's hard for me to wrap something up so quickly. So I guess it depends on what you're comfortable writing as well.
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That is an excellent reason to experiment wit flash fiction. You will learn to write concisely and prune away the unnecessary elements.
     
  17. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Question for Fantasy of You and mammamaia: How does writing short stories teach writing skills faster than writing a novel? It sure won't take a full draft of a novel for a writer to figure out whether his skills are improving. You don't have to finish something to realize you're not doing it right. It seems to me that the only advantage writing short stories would have over writing a novel, as far as practice is concerned, is that the writer may get some satisfaction from finishing a piece of work more quickly.

    Also, I think the skill set required for writing short stories is a little different from that required for writing novels. If the OP wants to write novels, he might profit more by working on a novel then he would by writing short stories.
     
  18. Shinn
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    Shinn Banned

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    I wrote several short film scripts to get my skills up to scratch with my main TV spec script and it helped me quite a lot with learning how to write scripts.
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Short stories teach you to stay focused. You can get away with sloppy focus more in a full novel, but it still isn't a good writing habit.

    Short stories allow you to experiment with different styles and a wider variety of characters. They also give practice in beginnings, description, pace, plot and character development, and climax and wrap up; in other words the full process in a smaller word count. All in all, you construct many more complete stories in the same number of words.

    Yes, you will then have more learning to do to transition up to novels, but all the skills acquired in practicing with short stories will also serve you well in writing novels.
     
  20. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    All this is true, but I never said you can't learn to write by writing short stories. I was asking why writing short stories is BETTER for learning to write than writing novels. Novels also have beginnings, description, pace, plot and character development, etc. And the smaller word count may not be such a good thing for an aspiring novelist. A novel may be, say, ten times as long as a short story, but that doesn't mean that ten times as many things happen in it, or that it has ten times as many characters or ten times as many scenes. Pacing is very different in a novel, as is the depth of characterization and so on. A novel may also have, not merely a climax, but several sub-climaxes that must be managed.

    Also, a novel can treat its themes more deeply than a short story; there's room for rumination, so to speak. Short stories, some of them, anyway, allow the writer to get away with shallowness, even to the point of a kind of sleight of hand. A short story is over quickly, so the reader may finish it and be on to something else before he notices that the reason the story hasn't sunk in is that it's not heavy enough to sink (I know I'm pushing a metaphor too far here, but so what?). A novelist has to be honest enough and brave enough to stand there in front of the reader, being examined, for a significant length of time. The preparation involved in writing a novel may be different in both quantity and kind from that involved in writing a short story.

    Bob Dylan has written a large number of songs, many of which are regarded as great and many of which have been big hits. But that hasn't necessarily prepared him to write a symphony. (I often distrust music metaphors, but I'm sticking this one out there, anyways.)
     
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I think you may have skimmed over this point:
    One novel is a huge commitment when you still developing your skills. It's far better to start with small projects and work your way up, just like for every other craft.

    Do not underestimate what you can do in a short story. You can most assuredly develop character and take on complex ideas. You learn focus, vital for developing clear, well constructed plot networks.

    I'm not saying your studies should not move on to writing novels. Of course you must, if novels are your ultimate goal. But you will learn vital skills by writing complete stories, and you can write many more short ones than long ones while you are learning the essentials.

    But don't turn your nose up at short stories. There are far more dimilarities than differences, and some of the lessons are enforced more strictly in the more compact format.
     
  22. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Damn, using logic. :(
     
  23. Donal
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    Donal Contributing Member

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    I wrote my first short story and I certainly felt it benefitted me. I made some really stupid mistakes and got three excellent critiques for which I was grateful. I really see the value in it and it is a great way to keep writing or trying out a technique that you want to use in your novel.
     
  24. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    My only slight reservation is writing a novel is a very different set of skills. Maybe you can get the same emotions running with a short story but its not something I have managed yet, its very clinical in comparison. I wrote a lot of non fiction and speeches before starting my novel and I found the skills there prepared me better.

    A short story could never have prepared me for the attachment to the characters, they become like your babies. It can't prepare you for the heartbreak of deleting aspects of the story you are attached too or when you have decided on a new twist to the plot and you need to take it back from 30,000 words to just over a 1000. I don't see how the relationship with the characters which for me anyway was a huge part of writing my story can be built in the same way.

    For me I had a hugely difficult decision to make when i realised the plot would develop better if someone close to the main character who he trusted and in turn I had trusted turned out to be bad. That was incredibly painful..

    It also cannot prepare you to keep the timeline in order over a long period which I found my greatest challenge.

    Short stories also don't prepare you for the perseverance and patience needed with a novel

    My writing skills have improved hugely. My first draft the grammar was appalling. By the end my ability to describe a situation improved, my characters were better developed. I still have a way to go but I think finishing my second draft and then I will just need to polish it.
     
  25. Layla
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    Layla New Member

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    As others (and Nike) have said, just do it. You'll make mistakes. That's a given in anything (heck, in life in general) the awesome thing is with writing, you can fix them before others see. And if others do see, it's a chance to fix them again and apply what you've learned to future writing. I started writing my first novel when I was 16 and barely familiar with more authors than J.K. Rowling and Ann M. Martin (who definitely aren't bad writers to read, just probably not the ONLY writers anyone should ever read). Was it good? No. Not really. But I loved writing it and I learned a lot from a lot of the mistakes I made in that first write. And nobody else had to see my embarrassing attempt at writing epic fantasy.

    Don't worry if you don't feel "qualified enough" or whatever else to write. One of the first things I learned as a lit major in college is that an author's first novel is rarely ever their best. Not everybody's Harper Lee.
     

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