Is it harder to write short stories than long ones?

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

  1. Zeppo595

    Zeppo595 Contributor Contributor

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    Yes, I have written two novels.

    I was writing that to counter earlier posts in the thread that novels were harder because they involved more words.

    One point raised earlier is that we were comparing the two regardless of quality. Well, it's just really not cognitively difficult to type a load of words that randomly come to your head and call it an experimental stream of consciousness novel. So in my eyes that diminishes the argument that novels are harder because they're longer. So if we're going to say, 'what's harder, typing 1,000 or 80,000 words?' then yes, typing 80,000 words takes longer so is harder. But that's not what we're comparing. We're comparing crafting a work of short fiction and a work of longer form fiction. I think there are differences in the mediums which make it difficult to say one is harder, though the argument that the short story is harder because of everything you have to leave out carries some weight.

    Writing is not just typing but also editing, which can be brutally hard for a short story as you do not have the same freedom to stray from the core elements of your story that you have in longer forms. I think that makes it more challenging in a way for sure.
     
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  2. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Contributor Contributor

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    I think one thing that's harder is to write a short story that is as impactful and remains with the reader as a novel.

    One of my favourite classic novels is To Kill A Mockingbird. I can't honestly think of as many short stories that are quite as memorable as that. I think that's where the main difficulty in short stories is - there are many great novels, but fewer great short stories. Perhaps Lovecraft and Conan Doyle are exceptions to that, as each of their short stories is a classic in its own right. And Poe as well.
     
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  3. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    Ok I do agree with that. My own posts have basically said the same things as you have here. And at least for myself, it was never length that made a novel "harder". If anything, I definitely find writing with fewer words harder than the other way around. I struggle far more in essay writing when the word count is 1000 vs 4000.

    I just take issue with your analogy then. It's a bad one. But your expanded post makes a good point :)
     
  4. Zeppo595

    Zeppo595 Contributor Contributor

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    There certainly have been short stories that made a big impact, both on me personally and in literary communities.

    The Swimmer by John Cheever comes to mind as a short story that - excuse the pun - made a splash.

    I mean, they made a movie about it. Also, it's an interesting story to bring up in this conversation because it's a short work which has the scope of a much longer one. It's about a man's slow descent into mental illness and alcoholism, which you'd think would be more suited for a novel but Cheever makes it work in short story form by leaving plenty to the reader's imagination.

    From what I've read about JD Salinger's life when he put out a story in the New Yorker, everyone would be talking about it the way people discussed Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad episodes in recent years.

    His short story 'a perfect day for bananfish' strikes me as one of the most resonant shorter pieces of fiction and there is a popular manga and anime series which uses it as it's namesake.

    Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut and For Esme with love and Squalor also struck a chord with many readers and the former had a popular movie made about it at the time.

    More generally I'd say fiction has less cultural cache than it once did as it can't really compete with more immediately pleasurable forms of entertainment. Sure, there are still people reading and appreciating short stories but it's far more niche. Same with novels, unfortunately.

    I feel like there is a pattern with writers making their name in shorts and then using that as a launching pad for their novels. I remember Kingsley Amis describing his short fiction as 'chips from the novelists workbench' which suggests he viewed them more like training exercises.

    Ray Bradbury in a fascinating little documentary I watched advised all writers to write short fiction first and also read short fiction as opposed to novels in order to more effectively develop their style before attempting novels. I've actually followed this advice since.
     
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  5. MassThinker

    MassThinker Active Member

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    I would think that it's harder to write a short story that's gripping, a story which will stay. Less time to make that happen, but if done right then.
     
  6. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Contributor Contributor

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    Certainly, I don't say it can't be done. But it's harder than making the same impact with a novel.

    There are well known awards for novels, such as the Booker Prize, but few short story awards get as much attention.
     
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  7. Zeppo595

    Zeppo595 Contributor Contributor

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    I don't know if anyone would agree with me here, but I also find short stories harder to read in a way. I feel like I have to be really 'on' concentration wise. Exhausted after a day of work, I can dip into a novel but I struggle with short stories. I appreciate them and try to write them but I think they're so dense it can be tough. In a novel I get used to knowing what parts are less essential and powering through them quickly. Whereas with a short, every line needs undivided attention quite often. I almost always read short stories 3-4 times including when I do critique on here but mostly because I think I skim read too much. In a way it's probably good practice for me to read more carefully.
     
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  8. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Contributor Contributor

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    Fewer words.
     
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