1. ModestKittee
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    ModestKittee Member

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    Trouble going from short stories to novels...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ModestKittee, Oct 8, 2008.

    I admit, it's been years since I've wrote so much but I'm having a real hard time getting beyond the short story, poem mentality, to write a novel.

    Can anyone offer any tips, books, suggestions to help me bridge this gap?
    I don't think I have a problem with descriptive writing, but filling up the content is where I lack. For example...

    Tell me to write about a tree and I can write a great story about the tree.

    Ask me to write a novel, I get lost in the "forest."

    Thank you in advance, I hope that made sense.
     
  2. Scarecrow28
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    Scarecrow28 Contributing Member

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    Well, one thing I'd do is take the ideas that you have for short stories and think about how you could build upon the events that occur in this short story until it is of novel-length. You may even be able to take short story ideas and put them together to form a novel. I loose many short story ideas simply because I end up incorporating them into my novel concepts. Another piece of advice is simply to plan out what your going to write. When you have clear and concise plan, its a lot easier to write. Another thing is to just work on adding in content. In short stories, you tend to restrict some things in order to keep it "short". Put more of your effort into describing more of the things within the story, like character appearances, their surroundings, ect. I hope this can help!
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that's good advice... but first of all, why do you want to write a novel?

    do you have a story in mind that you think will make a good one?

    or do you just want to write one 'for the heck of it'?

    not everyone can write good novels, y'know... some writers are best suited to turn out short stories and poems and some novelists can't write good short stories and poems to save their lives...

    so, first examine your motivation... then take a good look at your reading habits... have you read and do you constantly read a lot of novels by the best writers of all time?...

    the point is that to be a good writer one must be a good and constant reader of whatever it is one wants to write... so, the crux of your problem may be that you just don't read enough of what you want to write...

    you won't learn how to do it by reading how-tos... if you really want to write a novel, first make sure you have a good, solid reading base... next, that you have a story good enough for a novel...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  4. ParanormalWriter
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    ParanormalWriter Contributing Member

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    You might try writing out an outline. How detailed an outline you need depends on how well you're able to stick to your metal "vision" for the story. If you find yourself straying off the path a lot an outline can really help you keep your sense of direction. Also, if you have trouble with sagging middles (I do) an outline keeps you on track.
     
  5. ModestKittee
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    ModestKittee Member

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    Thank you all. I've considered an outline, but I only have the general story in my mind, not point A, B, C etc.

    Maia- Well, it's sort of a personal challenge. When I was a teenager, my mother often encouraged me to write and during High School, I was always celebrated as a "promising" writer. Upon entering college and my early twenties, I was placed in advance English/writing courses and my work was often cited as a "good example" to the class. So my mother (biased I know) my high school teacher and college professors have told me that I should write a novel.

    That being said, nearly 10 years later, I'm on the cusp of 30 and I haven't fulfilled this challenge. Life got in the way and my priorities were not conducive to writing. I always told myself however, that once I was older and had more life experiences that I would like to take the time and dedicate myself to this task. I feel now that I'm finally at that point, everyday I feel an urge or craving to write and I feel guilty if I skip a day.

    I also know now how precious and short life is so I'd like to make my mark before this ride is over. =)

    You're correct, I just may not be able to produce something worthwhile but I do want to try.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    For my part, I never considered writing a novel, until one of my short stories turned out to be too cramped in that format, and I realized the only way to do it justice was to turn it into a novel.

    I have a long way to go with it, but it's not for lack of material to write about.
     
  7. ModestKittee
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    ModestKittee Member

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    Ah I forgot to add, yes I am an avid reader. =)
     
  8. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    This isn't really advice, but something to keep in mind is to remember that a novel and a short story are two completely different things, as different as a song is from a movie. A novel is not just a really long short story, so if you're trying to write a novel in the same way that you approach writing short stories, of course you're going to fall short.

    The best way for me, personally, to be able to write a really long story (whether novel or serial), is to just think it over a long, long time. My serials go on for well over a hundred chapters and may take a few years to write, so that's a few years I have in which to mull over ideas for the NEXT serial. That's right...years. Most people can't just come up with a few ideas for a novel and write it just a few days or weeks after thinking it up.

    I have no idea how long you've mulled over your ideas, but you might need to think them over a good long while before they can mature enough to be made into a novel. Novels take a lot of time--sometimes in the thinking/planning stage more so than in the actual writing.

    Either way, good luck.
     
  9. Scarlett_156
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    Scarlett_156 Active Member

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    It's people feeling that they "have" to do, or "should" do, one thing or another where writing is concerned that gives the world so much of its bad, bad, unreadable writing. I'm not saying that is you, OP--I'm saying that your motives for writing have to be more clear to you than thinking you "should" write a novel because some people told you that you write well.

    To some, being able to write a good short story "about a tree" is an enviable state. Some of us can't write a good short story to save our freakin lives, ya know? If you can do that, then you're better off than most. I mean, there's this whole thing called "microfiction" which I would be totally killer at, if only I could keep myself to 1,000 words or less and still tell some sort of coherent story. Alas, I can't! I'm trying, but I can't.

    Neither do I feel like I "should" learn how to do this. I figure that at some point I'll be able to do it competently, or I won't. Either way, I'm not stressing over it. There are other things I can do very well, and some of them even have something to do with writing, so it's all good.

    I guess it really boils down not to whether you "should" write a novel but whether it's absolutely necessary at this point in your life. For example--are your short stories selling well? Have you gotten some recognition for your published work to date?

    If you are not under any sort of deadline to produce an actual novel, my advice is that you just sort of go with the flow. Produce good short stories that are well-received, get them published, bask in the glory, reap the rewards, etc. If a novel starts to build up in you, then rock on with your bad self. Otherwise just keep working on your craft and gaining experience. yours in Chaos, Scarlett
     
  10. TheAdlerian
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    TheAdlerian Senior Member

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    I rarely read short stories because I find them unsatisfying. I feel like I'm not getting to know the characters, so I stay away.

    I can think of a couple of authors who took short stories, expanded on events, characters mentality, and they ended up with a book. In a couple of cases I read the short story versions and they were nothing as compared to the book.
     
  11. ModestKittee
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    ModestKittee Member

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    Thanks. =)

    Scarlett- Nope it's not that my only motivation to write a novel is that others have encouraged me. That is only one part of my desire. There is a story inside me that I've dreamed about since I was born and I want to share it with the world for better or worse. That is my ultimate reason.

    I'm just going to try and take it one page at a time. :)
     
  12. Scarlett_156
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    Scarlett_156 Active Member

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    I think that's the best idea. Artificial deadlines are something that I always carp about; if no one is pressuring you and you are not under contractual obligation to produce something, then it's better for you, your work, and your life in general if you don't push yourself.

    I wasn't insinuating that you were only writing stories because someone said you were a good writer, just to clarify that; that's what you offered that as your main justification, however. I suspect that, as is the case with so many who write, you JUST CAN'T HELP YOURSELF. (LOL!) It's in you, and it's got to come out.

    Do keep in mind that many people have the opposite problem--we can't write a simple short story. So when you say, "I can write a good short story but I can't write a novel," we'll be all like, "HMPH!! There she goes bragging again!!"

    With a writer who has a tendency to novel-ize, the characters run away and start doing things we don't want them to do, the action starts to become epic, we theorize about or expand on subjects, and suddenly before we know it, we have written a couple of thousand pages of what turns out to be mostly pure nonsense. Like a lot of my forum posts, in fact. ;) xoxo
     
  13. Rebrella
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    Rebrella New Member

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    Yep, that's certainly my problem. Maybe I can take lessons from you, eh ModestKittee?;)
     
  14. ModestKittee
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    ModestKittee Member

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    Oh no...LOL no lessons from me. Unless you want lessons in what NOT to do.
     
  15. Lucy E.
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    Lucy E. Contributing Member

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    I had a similar problem when i first started writing. What I did was write a novel from the POVs of three different people - I treated every POV as a kind of short story, but following the events of the one preceding it. It helped me a lot. Since then, I've written several novels, all following different formulas.
    Hope that helps. :]
     
  16. TwinPanther13
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    TwinPanther13 Contributing Member

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    I Would say that short stories are action packed kernels of goodness, an inbetween meal snack.

    A novel is a filling old time dinner with potatoes and gravy a steak and corn. Understand how each one of the flavors seperately are good but together form one cohesive delightful taste to the palette.

    Take time with the novel. There is nothing wrong with having different tributaries as long as they eventually lead to one massive flavorful whole. Expand on details such as character and setting and take your time to put in a dash of love cause that is the only way it will become great.

    Just my opinion. If you take the time to understand what you write I am sure you will have more than enough to write about.
     
  17. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've never written a short story in my life and I'm not sure if I ever will. I spend too much time crafting my characters, my worlds, and all the little nuances of each to dump it all out in a few thousand words. Sorry, but that feels wasteful to me, mostly because I get attached to things and don't back off until I've covered them from all angles.

    There are two types of writers, those who come up with a lot of small ideas, and those (like me) who come up with only a handful of really big ones. if you can play both fields equally well, you have every ounce of my respect, for that is a rare feat indeed.
     
  18. ModestKittee
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    ModestKittee Member

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    You guys are great. I really appreciate all the warm tips and support.
     
  19. TwinPanther13
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    TwinPanther13 Contributing Member

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    I must disagree with this for one reason. No idea is small especially when it comes to writting.

    I say this one because it is true and two becasue I do not want any one reading this thread to become discouraged that they will never write a novel.

    A common ground can be found in all writting. Remember no idea is original. Even superheroes have been around since the dawn of the written word for an example look at Egyptian, Norse, Greek, Babylonian, and Christian writtings.

    A lot of stuff written there involves people with special powers.

    Ideas are only as big or small as we have the talent to make them.
     
  20. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    True, but are we looking at how big an idea can possibly be or just how much of it the writer chooses to write about? All ideas have the potential to be very large, infinitely so, (and I think that's what you're trying to get at,) but novels typically cover much more than a short story can. As many others have mentioned, a short story can be expanded into a novel, but doing the reverse of this usually doesn't work. After reading the novel, we've seen much more of what it can be, so reading the "condensed version" feels limiting.

    Perhaps using the terms "big" and "small" was where I went wrong. I never intended to imply that one is superior to the other.
     
  21. CommonGoods
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    CommonGoods Senior Member

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    Let me start by saying that I, being a short-story writer myself, I feel your pain. But let me also tell you that the switch from short-story to novel can be made. I suggest, however, that you take some steps inbetween;

    I started writing short-short-stories (less then 2000 words), then started writing short stories. Then I realised that my characters would have had a life before and after my story. So I started writing series. Characters developed, etc etc. The next logical step was writing a novel. Which isn't easy.

    I suggest you write a concept first. Once you've done that, write a short-story about the protagonist. Then write a short-story about the antagonist. Then write a dialogue between the two at the start of a novel, and one at the end of the novel.

    This is how I did it, and although I'm not saying it is the easiest or even the best way, it worked pretty well. I've currently got about 25 pages of self written text as back up material. On the moment, I am halfway my second chapter; 35 pages in.

    The biggest changes between a short story and a novel is, imho, the complexity. A good short-story is enjoyable but to the point. A good novel is complex, has multiple climaxes and is still enjoyable. Novel = shortstory x epic-squared
     

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