Recently, in one of the many writing groups that I’m a part of, someone asked if people write short stories when they give up on writing a novel. As if writing a short story were something that could just be done with no thought or skill, whatsoever, because supposedly, it’s the easiest thing to write.
And that kinda stuck with me.
I was just flabbergasted.
That level of prejudice toward a type of story just… hadn’t occurred to me before then. I write stories of all lengths, flash fiction, short stories, novellas, novels, and now, series. So, I know that each one poses its own unique challenges.
No single one of these defines a writer’s skill.
None of them denote having given up.
Series require the solution to some problems, but the tension of certain things left undone for the next book. The characters have to develop and grow (or fall apart). They have to encounter one stumbling block after another, without it reading as if you’re literally just trying to draw the story out to make money on a second book. Or a third. Or a seventeenth.
Novels require all the loose ends to be tidied up by the end of the book, and hopefully enough intrigue to carry the reader to that point. Throwing in just enough obstacles to carry the characters (and the readers) through 70,000 to 110,000 words is a difficult balance to strike.
Novellas and novelettes have to operate on a smaller scale or go out with one hell of a bang. You have to choose your words carefully to get the exact right meaning across, which should be done regardless of book length, but especially so when you don’t have the word count to spare. And you have so much less space to truly develop your characters. It can be done, but it can be a challenge.
And then, there’s short stories and flash fiction.
Building a world, developing characters, and putting together a plot (then wrapping it up) in less than 7,500 words for a short story or less than 1,000 words for flash fiction is not an easy feat.
You have to grab people so quick. You have to make them give a shit about the character immediately.
Because there aren’t enough words not to.
So to say that failed novel writers become short story writers is a load of bullshit.
Writing short stories instead of novels has nothing to do with whether an author is successful or creative or smart. What it truly comes down to is the number of words it takes to successfully express a given story.
Some stories are meant to be a series that keeps you hanging on from one book to another. Some are meant to come in, punch you in the face with 700 words, and leave you reeling.
That’s just how it goes.
The stories should decide what length they are.
The writer’s skill or work ethic has nothing to do with it.
So, if you write short stories or flash fiction, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Your work poses it’s own unique set of difficulties.
Overcome them and show those judgmental jerks who’s boss.
Now, as far as my own work is concerned, I’ve been forging ahead on projects of varying lengths over this past week.
I did a full round of edits on a short story called Born of Heathen Gods. I’m torn between releasing it on its own or saving it back for an anthology, down the road.
I made some progress on this round of edits on Where Darkness Leads, cutting out over 1,000 words of info dumps/repetition so far.
And I’ve written over 5,000 words in The Regonia Chronicles. Some pieces are falling into place within book two, and I’m pretty excited to keep moving ahead.
Just not tonight.
Today’s 12 hour shift in the sweaty ass tire factory really took it out of me.
So for now…
Keep reading. Keep writing.