1. NewBee
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    NewBee Senior Member

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    What am I doing wrong?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by NewBee, Apr 7, 2010.

    I borrowed this quote from the short story thread below...

    I am working on a novel... but I always figured if I can't write a good short story, how on earth can I write a good novel? What are the biggest differences? (Other than the obvious one is long on is short of course).
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Many.

    Complexity and depth of characterization for a start.

    A novel is obviously a more complex creature than a short story. This is not to say that a short story need be overly simple, just that a novel normally contains a number of arcs where a short story usually contains few or just one.

    In a novel, characters are expected to be well fleshed out. Again, this does not mean that in a short story the characters should be flat.
     
  3. NewBee
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    NewBee Senior Member

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    Should I be able to write a great short story before even attempting a novel? I find short stories kinda boring... I much prefer the complexity of novels.
     
  4. Evil Flamingo
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    Evil Flamingo Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well there a few other obvious reasons to this. The first and foremost would be that characterization is very difficult in a short story, or sometimes left out. Finding that precarious little edge between too much and too little is very frustrating to me. You have quite a bit more room, of course, in a novel to establish some quality characters. In a short story, it's a little more difficult trying to balance this. The leeway, at least I think, is smaller there.

    Also, short stories really don't allow you to establish a solid world or universe, as a novel is able to. It's more of a kind of scene writing in my eyes. This is at least what I've seen.

    I myself haven't published a novel, so I guess my points are somewhat void, but these few things seem to be a consistent difference.

    E. F. Mingo
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    They aren't completely different. The greatest difference is that a short story has to stay focused. You don't have the luxury of a multilayered character develpoment, you can't weave a tapestry of intertwining story lines, etc.

    Some writers naturally write concisely. They don't feel a need to richly describe every setting, and they don't need a lengthy buildup to get into the story. These writers do well in short stories. Oddly enough, they can also be the strongest novelists if they also have the patience and perseverence to stick with such a major project.

    Writers who painstakingly like to build up every scene, and manage dozens of characters with their own storylines, have a difficult time with the tight focus needed for a short story.

    But the dynamics of plot creation, and character definition, and managing pace apply to both. In each you must balance showing vs telling, and anchor your POV, and all te oter fundamentals of fiction writing.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the benefit to starting out with short stories is that you can learn how to write well by practicing on things you can write fairly quickly, before tackling a long term project like a novel... it's also a little like learning what it takes to climb a small cliff, before you try to scale mt. everest...
     
  7. da_ardvark
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    da_ardvark Member

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    Very well put. I believe all great stories include strong character development to the degree afforded the genre.
     
  8. Aeschylus
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    Aeschylus Contributing Member

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    I'd also like to point out that a novel often is based around many themes, while a short story usually has only one major theme. A short story is generally tightly focused around that major theme, acting as a vessel by which the author can portray that theme; a novel often uses the theme more in the background, expressing it on a subtler scale.

    The complexities which many novelists enjoy bringing into their stories just muddle a short story; as Cogito said, a short story has to be a lot more focused than a novel.

    Another thing: Why did you name this thread the way you did? You don't actually mention the way you've written short stories or novels, so we don't know what you're doing at all. Your actual questions are kind of vague, and don't really seem to relate to the title, making me think that you're asking for something else that you just haven't put down. Maybe you have a more specific question that you'd like answered? Just a thought.
     
  9. NewBee
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    NewBee Senior Member

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    The part I love most about writing is the 'dreaming' . I love thinking up my characters, where they are, the many conflicts, their backgrounds, their tiny bad habits, and whether their lactose intolerant ;) I find writing short stories hard to stay focused on one theme, and not being able to describe every last detail. My mind just gets carried away over who these characters really are.

    I'd love to post one of my short stories on here, but I'm not sure if I meet the critique requirements.

    I find my short stories choppy, but maybe its because I see all the things that aren't written.
     
  10. black-radish
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    black-radish Senior Member

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    There is nothing you 'should' or 'must' do.
    If you dislike short stories, why would you bother writing one? If you won't be able to put your heart into it because you're unmotivated to begin with, it can never be a good one.

    If you enjoy novels, write a novel.

    Altough, if you feel like it, you can always just try writing a short story because maybe there is a lot to learn.

    I think the mayor difference is that a short story evolves mostly around actions someone takes, where a novel focusses more on how the characters develope over the course of the book. Also, a short story focusses around 1 thing where a novel has a lot of different theme's and more sub-storylines.

    There are always strict 'rules' that you 'need' to follow in order to write a story, but if you don't know them you rely purely on your talent. Just write what you want, and if you can't figure out why it's not working out, look up the rules and see what you forget. Altough leaving rules out sometimes makes a story great.. Just do your own thing, I think 'rules of writing' are not really some strict thing you need to follow, but simply a guideline. Just write what you want and how you want it.
     
  11. lovely
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    lovely Member

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    I don't think you have to write short stories, but I do think that they can help in the process of a novel. You can think of them for practice or exercises to help get you out of the part you're stuck on in the novel. Plus, it's really nice to be finished with something quicker. I think it's the instant gratification that's so appealing. What's nice about short stories is that you get in the habit of finishing work. You know how it feels to finish, and you have practice in working towards that end. I think that helps when the novel gets bogged down, and you want to quit. If you're in a habit of finishing, you will. Also, it's really nice to try new styles of writing or new genres without having to commit to the depth of a novel.
     
  12. MelissaL
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    MelissaL Member

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    I actually find short stories to be more difficult to write. For one there are limitations on short stories, you can't fit a whole lot into them. I can easily get carried away and then the story gets too long. I suppose for some people it might be easier to write a short story. I try to write short stories almost like an excercise, to me its just something I need to work on.
     
  13. Cecil
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    Cecil Member

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    Incidentally, I just got out of a writer's workshop hosted by Orson Scott Card, and this is one of the questions that came up.
    His answer (which I totally agree with): If your goal is to write novels, then short stories are by no means mandatory, but they can be useful tools for practicing the basic art of how to write a story. However, if you already have those skills, there is no reason to write short stories unless you want to.

    Personally, I sometimes feel like I should keep a short story on the side, so that if I get "stuck" on my novel, I have something else to work on, and another world in which to flex my brain. I think it might be a good way to get the ideas flowing if they feel a little sticky.
     
  14. shekib82
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    shekib82 New Member

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    I am facing a similar problem. I want to write a novel, but I think I should start with something less ambitious to see whether I have the skills for it. This is the main reason why I joined this forum.
     
  15. Peerie Pict
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    Peerie Pict Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think if you find short stories tedious you haven't read any good ones! Maybe you need to do some research before you embark upon writing a short story. I recently read and loved Haruki Murakami's Birthday Stories in which Murakami selected his favourite birthday themed short stories and put them together in a collection. It galvanised my attitude towards short stories and I realised how they can evoke powerful emotions despite being a snapshot into the characters' lives.
     

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