Are you a Short Story Writer or Novel Writer?
Most writers can contend with both short stories and novels. They’re able to switch between the two with relative ease, but for some writers, it’s not so straight forward.
There are writers who struggle to write novels and instead prefer short stories. Conversely, there are those who find it hard to write a story confined to a short amount of words, so novels work better for them. That’s why many writers are drawn to either one or the other.
Short Story Writers
Short stories can be more complex in the way they are constructed – because a well told story with almost the same elements as a novel still needs to be crammed into 10,000 words or so – and some writers become very skilled at this.
Are you a short story writer? Do you find plotting is too complicated, that you have to try to make the story make sense and avoid large plot holes and mistakes? Are things easier with one central story?
Do you balk at the thought of creating loads of characters and creating in-depth characterisation? What about making all your character believable and likeable? Is it easier to stick with one or two main characters instead?
Does weaving all those themes together fill you with dread? Themes are an integral part of any story, so you need at least one. So is it easier working with just one main theme?
Unlike novels, short stories don’t demand intricate subplots to stitch into the main story. Many short stories don’t bother with any subplots – there just isn’t enough room.
Do you find it easier writing something that takes place in a short amount of time, maybe a few hours or days? With a novel, a story might span weeks, months or years and would need considerable plotting.
Does it put you off that writing a full length novel will take months, even years to complete? The planning involved can be very precise and time consuming. Short stories, however, allows the writer to complete a story in weeks or months.
Is it more important for you to tell an interesting, concise yet enjoyable story based on one central theme? If so, you are probably more adept at spinning a short tale with a twist at the end, and you find it easier to work with just a few characters and a main theme.
Short stories could suit you better.
Novel writers love the planning and research involved in putting together and then writing a novel.
Are you a novel writer? Do you struggle to tell a story in so few words? Instead you want to expand on backstory and flashback and history. You would much rather make the story multidimensional and richly layered, with lots of depth, and make it as believable as possible?
Rather than one small theme, does your novel have many overlapping themes to help tell the story and get the message across to your reader?
Do you prefer a large cast of characters to help you tell the story, to help weave those extra plot strands? Do you enjoy mixing them all together so that they create intelligent and complicated plots twists? Do you love dropping hints and clues and wrong-footing the reader?
Do you enjoy the challenge that comes with writing something so involved and so intricate that it could take several months to write and even longer to edit?
Is it more important for you to tell a deep, complex tale that contains many characters, related themes, a dramatic plot and lots of deep layers? If so, then the novel writing process will probably suit you better.
So which storyteller are you? Novels can be very challenging and time consuming, but for some of us, it’s a challenge we love. For others, short stories – which can be more difficult to tackle – offer writers a challenge. Whichever one suits your skills, stay with it. Don’t write a novel if you’re not confident or comfortable doing so, and the same is true of the short story. Let your skills decide what is best for you as a writer.
In time, it may be you can become one of those writers who can write both shorts and novels.
Next week: Constructing Story Outlines