1. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

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    Is it harder to write short stories than long ones?

    Discussion in 'Short Stories' started by Naomasa298, Oct 14, 2020.

    Now, I'm aware this thread might around passions, but I hope it doesn't go that way.

    William Faulkner said:
    “I'm a failed poet. Maybe every novelist wants to write poetry first, finds he can't, and then tries the short story, which is the most demanding form after poetry. And, failing at that, only then does he take up novel writing.”

    Or to put it succinctly: A novelist is a failed short story writer. A short story writer is a failed poet.
    I would also add - a short story writer is a failed flash fiction writer.

    I know that is true of me - I can't do poetry. I don't have the imagery. I don't think I'll ever master flash either. I write the occasional flash piece, but they're very hit and miss - and more miss than hit.

    So what do you think? Do you agree with Faulkner?
     
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  2. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    Depends. I have trouble coming up with short story ideas, but once I get going I can knock them out pretty quick to a satisfactory level, maybe even in one sitting for the first draft.
     
  3. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    I don’t know how anyone can argue writing short stories is harder than writing a novel. I’ve written dozens of short stories but not a single novel - not even a first draft.
     
  4. Le Panda Du Mal

    Le Panda Du Mal Senior Member

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    Poe wrote some thoughts on his view of “the tale” as a happy medium between the poem and longer prose works: http://people.virginia.edu/~sfr/enam315/texts2/eaphawthorne.html

    I’m not sure if his thoughts on the limitations of poetry hold up now that free verse and prose poetry have gained currency. I wonder if Poe would have appreciated Rimbaud and Lautreamont or detested them.

    I can think of a few short stories that I would say are perfectly written but I’m not sure I can do that for novels.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2020
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  5. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    Short stories are tricky, and lack the information
    that you can fit into a novel. So yes it is harder
    to write shorts, but it takes practice. :)
     
  6. CrimsonAngel

    CrimsonAngel Banned

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    I think short stories are hard because you only don't have time to create flashbacks, exposition, or backstory to fit into it, so I think it is harder to write than a novel.
     
  7. More

    More Active Member

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    No , it is not true .
     
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  8. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    Each one takes a different skill set. That's like asking is writing harder than painting, or is dancing harder than cooking? You're comparing apples and oranges, and this is a pointless exercise. Why are people obsessed with being better than someone else, and putting hierarchies around everything? Can't two things have equal merit?

    The one who thinks writing a novel is easy should go and try it, and then get it published through the gatekeepers (I mean us on the forum - not Faulkner). It isn't good enough to say "It's easy" and then actually, you can't produce it yourself. (and in this context, self-publishing doesn't count, because that's like saying your own baby is cute.)

    Also, just because one person finds one thing easier doesn't make it easy. I find writing incredibly easy - I don't think most would agree. I also find drawing easy. Someone else would find maths easy, whereas I don't. So if Faulkner finds poetry harder than novel-writing, well that's just him, isn't it?
     
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  9. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin I don't feel tardy.... Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Depends on how you write. If you know how to capture moments and immediate emotions, and if you're good at nailing scenes, short stories are simpler. However, if you can't master the single serve characters and the quick hit exposition, and rely on backstory and more long form explanation to fully flesh the characters, you'll probably find novels easier.

    I'm ignoring word count, stamina, and attention span with that. It's assumed that you can sit down and make the words happen at a regular rate. If we're just talking about "work," then obviously short stories are easier.
     
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  10. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    I disagree. It’s more like asking is climbing a flight of stairs harder than conquering Everest.

    It’s preposterous to suggest short stories are harder to write than novels. I don’t even think it’s open for debate.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2020
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  11. Malum

    Malum Offline

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    If you're writing I imagine you're always aspiring to produce content reflective of your full potential, regardless of word count. So I believe novels to be of a greater difficulty. It also begs the question, is it easier to edit? As that has been a much longer process for me than writing the first draft of my book. However, with short stories I imagine it's rare to garner the often inexplicable blessing of a concept that gets under your skin to the point where you feel you have to write it, as you're limited by word count in the message(s) you wish to convey... It's a matter of context and subjective...but I'm getting off of the point. It's a bit of a broad question really so I thought i'd post my reflections....

    Really, I guess it's determined by what you consider 'hard' about the creative process.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2020
  12. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

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    Not really. It's like asking which event is harder to win, 100m or a marathon?

    It clearly is open for debate.
    https://www.writingforums.org/threads/how-do-you-make-the-switch-from-novels-to-short-stories.165469/
     
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  13. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    I did, of course, mean conquering, not concurring.
     
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  14. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    I mean, I write novels, not poetry, but see, here's the interesting thing - I find poetry harder, in entirely different ways (firstly, I don't think I've ever wrapped my head around what is truly poetry). Maybe that's why I write novels. As I know from your posts, I think you primarily write poetry, and you find writing novels harder.

    Perhaps we just find things we don't know and don't do as often harder :D
     
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  15. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody The Ole Frazzle-Dazzle Contributor

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    Depends on what you classify as short... Micro and flash fiction are super hard for me! But short stories of average length arent as challenging. I guess its because i started there. The natural progression was to just write more and more until i began writing stories of novel length (or at least tried to).
    Regressing to micro fiction was hard
     
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  16. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    I don’t think it’s as simple as that, though. I appreciate the question wasn’t which is quicker to write, but it is a factor which makes short stories easier to write. But there are other factors. The short format doesn’t require as much planning (if you’re a planner at all). The plot is less complex (because ot must be simplified). There’s no room (or need) for filler or subplots.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2020
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  17. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    Technically though, you could argue then in the short story, you must be better at recognising the true core of the story and of your character's arc, and you must be better at reducing everything to its essence and most impactful imagery because you only get one chance to bring the point home. I agree with you though, planning a novel is harder if you wanna do it properly and make sure every element is as interesting as the last, and having to consider how everything interconnects can induce a headache in anyone. At the same time, is a short story technically, as a story, less complex necessarily? Now I have no idea - I neither read nor write short stories, honestly. But does less content mean less technical complexity? Because that's really the question, right - are the two equally difficult in different ways, or are there technical aspects of the story type that makes telling one objectively easier than the other?

    Unfortunately I probably can't carry on with this conversation because I have zero knowledge of short story writing :confuzled: but without knowing more about how short stories are constructed, I'd be hesitant to say it's technically easier.
     
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  18. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    One thing that hasn’t been discussed is quality. Anyone can write bad short stories, and while the same can be said for novels I think the very process of churning out 80,000+ words, good or bad, is harder than when that target is, say, only 5,000. So let’s be clear I’m not suggesting quality short fiction is easy, but when put up against quality novel writing, I’d say it’s easier. But we’re going round in circles now.
     
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  19. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    Oh if quality isn't a requirement, of course short stories are easier. You don't need to be very serious to write a short story if quality is unimportant. Whereas to waste months and years of your time to churn out 80k+ words, even if it's utter crap - that takes a certain amount of dedication and passion (raises hand :superhello:)
     
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  20. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

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    Writing short stories requires different skills to writing novels.

    You don't have time to worldbuild or expose backstory. You have to start the story, engage the reader and bring it to a satisfying conclusion within the space of what is equivalent to one chapter of a novel. Not everyone can do that.

    Things like character development have to, to an extent, go out of the window. You can have some, depending on the story but how to show it without it seeming rushed is a skill in itself.

    And advancing the plot quickly, again without seeming rushed is also a skill.

    Compare Isaac Asimov's short story Sally with Stephen King's Christine. Similar plots but totally different execution.
     
  21. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    And these are some of the very reasons I believe the short story format is easier.
    Precisely!
     
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  22. Malum

    Malum Offline

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    The question itself is too vague imo. It's too open to pedantic arguments. With short stories I see them as more dependant upon their premise. A quality concept isn't really something you can force in either method of storytelling, as far as i'm concerned. Novels are harder, obviously, yet writing a short story that is distinctive and memorable must be a rare occurence. The question remains how much effort/sub-concious inspiration is imperative to the success of a concise story.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2020
  23. Mana_Kawena

    Mana_Kawena Member

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    Writing in different forms just requires different skillsets; poems are the purest form of writing, as in it is the most concentrated (at least in regards to short poems as opposed to long poems that are book-length), like the cappuccino of stories. Short stories tell a story, often in a single scene or with a single setting, taking a person through all the twists and turns of a novel in that limited space and time it possesses, which would be like watching a single movie in a single sitting. A novel, with its chapters and breaks and multiple many threads, is like the series-version of a movie, allowing more time to go into exploring the various facets of a story in more in-depth ways.

    If anything, I think of it more as a progression of truly good writers... to write a novel well, one must understand the short story. To write a powerful short story, one must practice the art of poetry. To get a feel for poetry, one ought learn of the art of the spoken word, of oral tales, histories, legends, music, and art.

    The question itself makes it seem like it's all about what you write that makes a difference, but really, when it truly gets down to it, the real question has to do with what kind of storyteller someone is, and whether they are passionate about the heart of each craft and understand each one's strengths and weaknesses. Personally I love reading writing by people who practice several different formats of writing, because they tend to bleed together then... a poetic novelist will have rich worlds as well as luscious writing, for example. But most poets don't have the stamina to tackle something as long as a novel, just as many novelists don't set themselves to the task of making sure every word counts because they are aiming to tell a bigger story and simply bloat their story to do so.

    It's all about one's personal strengths and weaknesses, as well as what drives one's writing. And to truly tell a good story well, one ought to level up between the forms. Of course, many people are lazy writers who just want to put out a bestseller, or who are one-trick writers that couldn't care less about writing as art. It's a low-threshold-entry pastime, so it just makes sense that a lot of bad writing hides the true writers and artisans from view.
     
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  24. Zeppo595

    Zeppo595 Contributor Contributor

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    Short story is more difficult I think.

    Disagree on that.

    That's like saying dribbling on a basketball court for 24 hours is 'harder' than doing a slam dunk. Just because doing one thing takes longer does not mean it's technically more difficult.

    I don't think you're saying this but I've noticed in the writing community in general too much fetishization of typing out enormous volume of words as if that's the most important part of writing. I don't think it is.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2020
  25. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

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    No, I'm not, but it's an undeniable factor. Sprinting 100m is easier than running a marathon for the same reason.
     

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