Friday, 24 January 2014

Short story or novel?

During my teaching of authors, I often hear new writers say that they’d rather try a short story rather than a novel. I can understand that - it takes a shorter time to write and is less complicated when it comes to structure - none of those pesky sub-plots!

However, it is worth remembering that most new prose writers have the beginnings of at least one novel in them. They’ll have an idea which is so much bigger than a short story.

The trouble is that many new writers will get to chapter four or five and give up because they don’t have the confidence or stamina to keep going. Writing a novel is a big old undertaking.

So, yes, short stories can be the best place for new writers to hone their craft but don’t discount the idea of a novel if it keeps calling you.

Also, don’t be beguiled into thinking that short stories are the easiest option. Those people who say writers who cannot write novels write short stories are missing the point.

It takes real skill to write a short story that’s effective - you need to consider everything that also goes into a novel, plot, characters, setting, structure, pace etc, and all without the wordage you get with a novel.

It is an art form in itself and some writers are happy to spend their life writing short stories.

So how do you know which form you are drawn to? Well, if it takes you five minutes to tell someone the plot of your story, you’ve got a short story; if it takes 20 minutes and you’re still talking, you’ve got a novel!

John Dean

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