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Author Topic: Writing both short stories and novels
Member # 6378

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Many years ago, I started off by writing short stories, then I sort of gradually went to writing novel length fiction. After the train of my life derailed last year, when I started getting back into writing, it was back to short stories. And I am enjoying them a lot. I would like to continue writing them. But... a couple weeks ago, the idea for a novel tickled my brain. My question for you guys is this: Do any of you write shorts and novels at the same time, and if so, what sort of "schedule" do you keep? I was thinking of doing something like writing shorts on the weekdays, along with whatever notes and stuff for my novels. Then on the weekends, I would work on my novel (maybe thinking like the Weekend Novelist, sort of). But does anyone have any experience of this actually working out for them? If something else DID work, what was it?



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Pyre Dynasty
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I use short stories as recreation while I'm writing a novel. Sometimes when I'm writing a novel I get great ideas that just don't belong in the novel. Sometimes I get deep in and have to blow off some steam.
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Member # 9206

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I am impressed with all you "Multi-tasking" writers. When I am writing, I am living the novel I am working on to the point of obsession...

I think it is time for me to branch out a bit, eh?


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Member # 9381

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I tend to write one at a time as well. My ideas get crossed when I try write two things at once. So I don't. Of course, I started with a Novel Length piece and now do shorts. Perhaps when I go back to a novel length work, I will want to figure out a schedule for both.
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Jeff Ambrose
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I've tried to write short stories while writing a novel, and it didn't work for me. The short story always ends up taking away from my novel because I see the ending so quickly. I end up taking time off from the novel to finish the short story ... and then the novel doesn't seem as fun.

So I just work on one project at a time and throw myself into it.

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Member # 8147

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Great question.

I started writing short stories because I figured it would be an excellent way to learn how to tell a good story and to improve my skills fast. My thinking was that writing multiple short stories would teach me more about beginnings, middles, and endings and pacing faster than the same time spent on one novel. I started doing this when I thought it took everyone a year or more to finish a novel. Little did I know that was a myth.

Now I really like writing short fiction, mostly because there are days when I really NEED the boost that comes from finishing something. Even writing fast it still takes months for me to draft a novel. Because I try to write every day and don't consider editing to be writing, I usually write short stories while I'm editing a novel. I find this helps, but I have the luxury of writing full time. I don't know what I'd do if I only had a few hours a day.

Everyone says this is true across the board, but the middle of novels are a pain for me. I try not to start new short fiction when I'm in the middle of a novel. Every little distraction is incredibly appealing. It's easy to give up in the middle, so I force myself to just keep going on that one project.

I don't think you'll find a consensus on this topic, and even if you do, it might not apply to you. If you have no problem finishing what you start then what can it hurt? I wrote a first novel while I was still figuring out how to tell a story. That was a mistake, but if you're past that point, then I don't see that it's much of an issue as long as you have the discipline to finish what you start and the time to keep multiple projects moving forward.

[This message has been edited by posulliv (edited May 27, 2011).]

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Member # 6378

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Posulliv--You touched on what I like about short stories: I really get that rush when I'm done, it keeps me motivated, you know? I guess trial and error will tell me how things work. I just hate using time like that, I feel like I have so much to do!


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Member # 9183

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I do both at once. I tried doing just the novel, but it is nice to take some breaks.

To be honest, I haven't been writing a whole lot of anything lately. Work is really burning me out.

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Member # 8547

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My problem is one of "you are what you eat". I don't read many short stories and I've never had much interest in writing them. My ideas all naturally turn into novels.

I agree with the notion that writing a short story in the midst of working a novel would probably tear my focus away from the novel and I'd judder to a halt.

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Member # 5512

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Most of my stories wish to be turned into novels. I don't know why, all I know is that I have difficulty writing shorter stuff.

Yet lately I've been experimenting with the short story. I had a huge novel in mind at my early stage and I've decided to break it down into fragments. It's too early to tell how it's going.

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Robert Nowall
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I found it difficult to work on one thing while working on another---my characters are kind of cut from the same cloth, and I kept messing up the names of them, and not even noticing I'd used a name from my novel in my short story in a couple of places. A couple of times I even sent out manuscripts with this kind of error---I once got a critique back with a startled query about this character I'd introduced in the middle of one page who then disappeared.

So I found it best to, if something came up, to put aside any novel I worked on and work straight through to the end of a short story (or at least the draft of one).

(Of course it's a moot point...it's been years since something went to novel length and the longest finished thing I've turned out in the last ten years came in at twenty-five thousand words (trimmed to twenty thousand in final draft). But the principal applies---put longer work aside and work straight through the shorter stuff.)

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Member # 6378

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What a lot of you are saying makes sense. I'm also thinking that because there are natural rhythms to novel writing, times where you put certain steps of it aside and so forth, that those times are probably the best to just work on a short all the way through.

LOL sorry if any of this seems obvious. It is really frustrating, because when I started getting back into writing again after lots of family things happening, it's like all the things that I had discovered before in my years of writing are no longer applicable. Things like when I write best, and HOW I write best, if I'm a pantser or plotter... I feel like I have to figure it all out again, because it's just not coming naturally. Grr! But thank you guys for your help, really, having people like you around who know at least on some level what life is like is very heartening.


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Member # 8501

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I write short stories to learn craft. You can experiment with a short story without messing up a novel. But I find I don't really like to read short stories. I never have. I like the immersion you get with a novel.

It's the same with writing. I get reluctant to dedicate myself to the immersion of novel writing, because after I get a first draft out, I'm sort of burnt out and continue to write shorts for months amidst rewriting and editing a novel.

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Member # 9148

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I write both. My schedule has changed but when I wrote my first novel I had time in the evening to work on that and to work on short stories, plus some play now and then. But now I can no longer do that. My wife has discovered the internet for her craft business.

I usually write short stories at work. Some times hand writing them out on notepaper. Currently though I am doing three novels- well, one is a revision-and one of those I do at work. I work on short stories during one break at work. But I'm very very close to finishing the at work novel-I hope Monday-so that will free up more time to work on short stories. And I'm more or less done with the revision so I may have some time at home for shorts. I may do another novel; maybe redoing that first one or one I started last June, or a new one. The one I started its at maybe one page just enough to get the idea down. But speaking of that I have another one that has three chapters I need to finish. We shall see.

I have two stories to revise, three to finish-maybe four-and I think one or two others that are somewhere in the process. I hope to have a couple-or all- of those done during my vacation this year. Or at work during lunch and breaks.

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Member # 9218

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I write shorts between novels when I'm not quite ready to start the next one or am busy editing the last one, just to force myself to write if nothing else.
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Member # 7852

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I tend to write short stories in spurts, between novels. generally speaking they come about as a need to get out of the over editing phase, and get me out my funk after another agency gives me a from rejection which I like far more than the no answer. What do they do with my SASE?
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Member # 7354

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I am impressed with all you "Multi-tasking" writers.

It helps to have ADD. I've never done a good job of concentrating on one project for any significan length of time.

I write both novels and short stories...along with poetry and lyrics.

Simply put, the story tells me how long it wants to be. I've worked on what I was convinced would be a short story, but I became inspired to expand on my story and my thoughts, and it ballooned into 100K+ words. I've outlined what looked to be a novel-length story, only to realize that a severe succinctness of words (and a good melody!) would make it a more accurate representative of the feelings I wanted to convey.

If I were to sell myself to one set length only, many of my personal favorite works would never see the light of day. And, as writers, we all fight against such limitations to our craft every day.


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Member # 6378

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See, Crank, you are onto something. I have ADD as well, and always do better having at least a couple things up my sleeve at a time. I try like heck to only do one thing at a time, because everyone says you can be way more productive that way, but it just never works out...
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