Short stories and novels are not the same thing

Here is my problem. For the last eighteen months I have been on the schedule of a writer; a novelist. I have been writing novels. But I am now moving on from writing novels to editing them and am broadening my writing scope to include short stories, not novels.

Thus, my writing days are all messed up. I’m used to sitting down and picking up where I left off, getting lost in the words and ploughing on ahead with the story. Not so any more.

I need structure.

I always work better with structure. Be that a daily word target, number of hours spent writing or reading or even a list of tasks to complete within a set time frame. However, my structure has changed significantly over the last month because my focus has shifted. The structure I was working with so happily when I was writing my novels is not one that will marry well with my need to edit them, nor write short fiction.

A change of approach is required.

Having recognised this, I don’t yet have a solution. Structures take time to build and they need decent blueprints and planning before being officially sanctioned and approved. My approach to writing my novels – sit down and tap out the words on the keyboard without allowing my inner editor any say in the matter – will not work for the release of said inner editor on the words now written. Nor will it allow me to plough through short stories without any regard for word limits, topics or tight deadlines.

Perhaps the reason I have had so much trouble getting a story down for competitions is because I’m still in novel mode. I just want to write. But short stories can’t really thrive in an all writing environment. There has to be some recognition that the story needs to be told within a certain number of words, that characters and story lines have to be simplified and each and every idea can not be the prompt for yet another novel.

I need to discover a successful process for writing short fiction. Whether that be to write it without regard on one day, read it over and identify the crux of the story the next and then re-write it based on this tightly bound interpretation, or write a story in bullet points to achieve the same effect before fleshing it out as necessary.

I’ve discovered a way to write novels (NaNoWriMo is my godsend). I now need to experiment with the short story genre. I had some success in May 2012, during A Story a Day and felt I had figured out how to start the process of writing short stories. Now I just need to work on that experience and figure out the next step: polishing the stories to really say what I mean.

Once again I feel that I’ve reached a point in my writing learning curve that has made me understand the monstrosity that is the task of writing. It’s hard. It takes time. And it takes patience.

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One response to “Short stories and novels are not the same thing

  1. Yes indeed. I just came out of short story mode a few months ago ( a little bit still lingers with the editing). While there’s a lot of cross over, there’s a lot of differences. May I suggest you work on one or the other? Like you said, there is a mindset difference and its not easy going back and forth. Perhaps you can use short stories to take a break from the novel when you need it?

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