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Mike27
04-29-2005, 04:56 AM
Do you hone your skills by writing a few short stories before tackling a novel or is it your preference to just do the novel first?

soloset
04-29-2005, 05:45 AM
I'm not sure exactly what you mean, actually. I read your question in two different ways. :)

If you mean, "You've decided to write a story in a set genre you haven't tried before. Do you write several short stories in that genre to get your toes wet, then proceed with a novel in that genre?", then no. If I have an idea that strikes me as having enough meat for a novel, I'll go for it, regardless of if I've written anything in the genre before. I've found reading in a genre is more effective for me to get a feel for it than writing "tests" in it, anyway.

If, on the other hand, you mean, "You're making a career out of writing. Do you start out writing short stories as a way to get better skills, then start a novel when you feel ready?", then yes, that's how I did it, although I certainly wasn't aware that's how I was doing it at the time. And the term "short story" implies rather more of a story arc and plot than most of my earlier works possess. :)

Mike27
04-29-2005, 06:04 AM
I'm not sure exactly what you mean, actually. I read your question in two different ways. :)

If you mean, "You've decided to write a story in a set genre you haven't tried before. Do you write several short stories in that genre to get your toes wet, then proceed with a novel in that genre?", then no. If I have an idea that strikes me as having enough meat for a novel, I'll go for it, regardless of if I've written anything in the genre before. I've found reading in a genre is more effective for me to get a feel for it than writing "tests" in it, anyway.

If, on the other hand, you mean, "You're making a career out of writing. Do you start out writing short stories as a way to get better skills, then start a novel when you feel ready?", then yes, that's how I did it, although I certainly wasn't aware that's how I was doing it at the time. And the term "short story" implies rather more of a story arc and plot than most of my earlier works possess. :)

I re-read my question and it wasn't very clear...

Your answers, however, covered what I was trying to ascertain. It involves both avenues, actually. A new genre and a new career!

I'm used to writing non-fiction motivational essays and articles, usually around 1500 to 4000 words, depending.

I was just interested if others immediately tackle a 100,000 word novel or get their "toes wet" first.

Thanks!

HConn
04-29-2005, 07:52 AM
Mike, don't write short stories as practice for a novel. If you want to write novels, start writing them. If you want to write short stories, do that.

Or do both. Whatever you like.

But don't write short stories unless you love them and want to write them your whole career. There's no need.

Liam Jackson
04-29-2005, 10:23 AM
In my humble opinion, shorts and novels are very different disciplines. Don't try one for the sole purpose of practicing for the other. There's no real benefit.

katdad
04-29-2005, 10:32 AM
The presumption that short stories are "warmups" to novels is a fallacy. I have written both, and they are equally hard. It's just that short stories take less time to be hard to write.

That being said, I began my Mitch King series as a short story, but it didn't stay that way -- it grew like Topsy and suddenly was a novella, novelette, and what have you.

But I still write short stories -- just that they aren't mysteries -- I write short SF or horror.

Maryn
04-29-2005, 04:40 PM
I agree with everyone that the skill sets for short stories and novels aren't quite the same. However, I think a lot of people who get the vague notion that they want to try writing but really don't have the skills--yet--are better served by starting with short fiction.

They have a lot less time and effort invested in the early mss. that show their entry into the learning curve. We've all seen new writers who don't know how to punctuate dialogue, craft a hook, use a consistent POV, adhere to submission format, and all the other beginner goofs. IMO, better to teach yourself the basics on something short that can be completely scrapped or rewritten from the ground up without taking another year of your life to do it.

I started with a novel. I wish I hadn't. I thought I knew what I was doing, but I was wrong. What the hell, not the first time, or the last, huh?

Maryn, who may one day rewrite it

veinglory
04-29-2005, 05:09 PM
The received wisdom is that there is no point writing shorts if what you want to do is write a novel. My personal experience was that writing short stories did help me immensely, and publishing them helped get my name out there and establish a readership for my subsequent novellas.

Jamesaritchie
04-30-2005, 04:28 AM
I agree with everyone that the skill sets for short stories and novels aren't quite the same. However, I think a lot of people who get the vague notion that they want to try writing but really don't have the skills--yet--are better served by starting with short fiction.

They have a lot less time and effort invested in the early mss. that show their entry into the learning curve. We've all seen new writers who don't know how to punctuate dialogue, craft a hook, use a consistent POV, adhere to submission format, and all the other beginner goofs. IMO, better to teach yourself the basics on something short that can be completely scrapped or rewritten from the ground up without taking another year of your life to do it.

I started with a novel. I wish I hadn't. I thought I knew what I was doing, but I was wrong. What the hell, not the first time, or the last, huh?

Maryn, who may one day rewrite it

I think it's better to write what you want to write. In my experience, writing short stories may help with a couple of areas of novel writing, but can actually do far more harm than good in other areas.

And if you are to learn anythng writing short stories, you'll have to write twenty or thirty or a hundred of them. For most writers, takes far more than a year of life to get any good at short stories. It's at least as fast, and far more beneficial for most writers to just go ahead and write a novel.

I'd even go as far as to say that you're really bucking the odds by writing short stories. Write what you most love to write. You learn to write short stories by writing short stories, and you learn to write novels by writing novels. The two have very, very little in common, some areas are so different you can make it much harder on yourself by learning to do one when you really want to do the other.

Wormo
05-01-2005, 04:07 PM
I generally tend to get halfway through a short story before I start on a bigger one, and then when i'm halfway through that I tend to create an idea for a saga.

VOTE_BOT
06-28-2005, 02:35 AM
Agree with those who say the short story is a whole different animal.

wideawakesoh
07-05-2005, 09:26 PM
Okay, my fellow wordsmiths, this is very simple.

It all depends on what you've got cooking in your imagination. It could be a short story, or it could be a novel. It could be a whole series of novels, or a whole bunch of short stories about the same characters, none of these would be firsts. Just start writing. Don't classify it. Just tell your story and when the story is finished, you'll know what it is because you'll know how long it is. Short stories are no less noble endeavors than novels, they're just shorter, but sometimes they require much more focus because you're trying to tell a clear concise story in 5 to 10,000 words, but your brain feels like it wants to go on and on and on, which is why I say to just start writing. If you still really can't figure out what to do, I suggest you pick up a volume of short stories from your local bookstore, anyone will do, but your best bet is to try something more modern. Stephen King has some great anthologies (Everything's Eventual is his latest), as does Clive Barker, or you could just pick up a copy of America's Best Short Fiction, or a book of O.Henry. Reading short stories will give you a better idea of how to tell one, and a better graps of how the pieces fit together. If you write something between a short story and a novel, hey, we have a name for that too. It's called a novella, and it's also a perfectly acceptable form of prose. Once again, Stephen King can give you an idea of what novellas are (his book Different Seasons has four of them, one of them the famous Shawshank Redemption). But overall, it really doesn't matter what kind of story it is in terms of length. Just write it, because in the end it won't matter what your story is classified as, it will matter that you told it.

"Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things that escape those who dream by night."
Edgar Allan Poe

Keep writing,
wideawake

:banana:I love this freakin banana!!!

Jamesaritchie
07-06-2005, 03:36 AM
Okay, my fellow wordsmiths, this is very simple.

It all depends on what you've got cooking in your imagination. It could be a short story, or it could be a novel. It could be a whole series of novels, or a whole bunch of short stories about the same characters, none of these would be firsts. Just start writing. Don't classify it. Just tell your story and when the story is finished, you'll know what it is because you'll know how long it is. Short stories are no less noble endeavors than novels, they're just shorter, but sometimes they require much more focus because you're trying to tell a clear concise story in 5 to 10,000 words, but your brain feels like it wants to go on and on and on, which is why I say to just start writing. If you still really can't figure out what to do, I suggest you pick up a volume of short stories from your local bookstore, anyone will do, but your best bet is to try something more modern. Stephen King has some great anthologies (Everything's Eventual is his latest), as does Clive Barker, or you could just pick up a copy of America's Best Short Fiction, or a book of O.Henry. Reading short stories will give you a better idea of how to tell one, and a better graps of how the pieces fit together. If you write something between a short story and a novel, hey, we have a name for that too. It's called a novella, and it's also a perfectly acceptable form of prose. Once again, Stephen King can give you an idea of what novellas are (his book Different Seasons has four of them, one of them the famous Shawshank Redemption). But overall, it really doesn't matter what kind of story it is in terms of length. Just write it, because in the end it won't matter what your story is classified as, it will matter that you told it.

"Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things that escape those who dream by night."
Edgar Allan Poe

Keep writing,
wideawake

:banana:I love this freakin banana!!!

I thinnk, if you're wise, you know whether you're writing a short story or a novel before you write word one. It isn't that complicated.

Short stories and novels are not written in the same way, and if your short story comes out at novel length, it's probably not a novel, just a short story that's way too long and boring.

There's nothing wrong with short stories. I love reading and writing them. But a short story isn't a novel, a novel isn't a short story.

Just sitting down and writing is fine, but you should still know what it is you intend to write. Not doing so most often just means a story that's going nowhere, and that no editor will want.

There's one heck of a lot more to story classification that just how long something is. You simply won;t know what anything is by looking at length alone. I don't care who writes it, a 100,000 word short story would bore a statue to tears before the first ten thousand words were read.

Write what you want, write whatever turns you own, but you'd better know the differences between the forms, which is far, far more than length, or you're going nowhere.

rodentone
11-06-2005, 03:30 AM
I suppose it's up to the individual, but I prefer to hone my skills with short stories first. I can find out what I'm doing wrong, file the story away on my hard drive to redo later. If it were a novel you would have to go back constantly making changes.



On the other hand, some people have basically one story to tell. With them it may be better to start writing it. I'm an avid proponent of getting started, not taking months to profile each character, plot out storylines, and the like. Too many writers never do get started. Just start writing and let the chips fall where they may.



When I can't think of anything to write I have too methods to get myself moving, and get some damn thing down on paper.



I might start by remembering some scene in my life. What it felt like to step out of a house built on a hill in rural Virginia, for instance. The cool morning with crickets chirping. Seeing some crows fighting over something in a cornfield, etc. Just keep on going, writing what that scene felt like to a young kid. You might well get the idea for a story while writing it. If not, file the scene away in an "Idea" directory and try another.



Or, conversely, think of a character, maybe a composite of someone you know. Start describing them. I don't mean a profile, just picture them standing in front of you, or on your back porch. Then think of something happening and what that character would do. Maybe completely unlike you. You like dogs and the neighbor's dog is a big friendly brute. But to your character he might be a menace. See what I mean?



Those are the things I can do to get started. The main thing to do is to get something down, no matter if it makes sense or not. You'll think of a plot, or a scene, or a character to fit either. Guaranteed.



Take a newpaper or news show on TV, and ask yourself "What if?"



Those are the magic words to get moving, What If? Imagination is a fiction writer's stock in trade, that and vocabulary. If you lack either, get a job at McDonalds. You'll never make it in fiction writing. Even non-fiction takes both.



Oscar Rat

Linda Adams
11-06-2005, 04:18 AM
I actually tried this--and it was a BIG mistake for me. I did short stories because I started writing very young (eight), and the adults around me recommended starting small. Unfortunately, few of the skills I got from short stories worked with a novel, and worse still, many of the skills for short stories actually got in the way of writing a novel. I spent years trying to do novels, but I could never get past page 100--it would fizzle out every single time. Why? I was trying to write it like a long short story, and not like a novel or alternately, like each chapter was a short story. Even worse still was that it was very difficult figuring out that this was the problem. I finally ran across a writing book that said short story writers can have a really hard time transitioning to novels, and it listed every single one of my problems.

And the process to get to a finished novel and overcome the barriers short story writing gave me was very painful. Ultimately, I had to virtually relearn how to write all over again. I worked through an index card outline of scenes just to figure out how the plots and subplots come together (I hate this kind of structured outlining, but I was desperate to solve the problem) in a novel. As I wrote, I would catch myself trying to "write short"--self-editing, as I had done for short stories--and had to tell myself to write longer, put in the extra detail, add more about the setting, pay extra attention to the narrative. I had to learn how to do multiple characters in a scene properly, something I hadn't needed to deal with in the simpler format of the short story.

What I learned from novel writing--never got this from short stories--characterization, scene orientation, and story set up.