writing

Writing Short

I ran all my errands this morning, so I think I get to just focus on work today. I’ve finished a short piece I was working on, and we’ll have to see if it’s something the person who asked for it can use. I’m not a good short story writer. I get frustrated with the short length and want to develop it more, but then it’s no longer a short story. When it’s truly a short story, it feels too short and underdeveloped to me.

This is why I get angry when writers persist in giving the advice to write short stories first. Short stories aren’t the training wheels version of a novel. They’re an entirely different form, and the ability to write one doesn’t mean you have the ability to write a novel. I’d say it’s more like roller skates vs. a bicycle. They both involve wheels, and some people can both skate and ride a bike, but learning how to roller skate isn’t really going to help you ride a bicycle, other than maybe having leg muscles and a sense of balance.

Learning to write short stories teaches you how to use words, maybe a bit of character development and plotting. But the character development you do for a short story is entirely unlike what’s needed in a novel. The plotting you do for a short story doesn’t necessarily scale to a novel-length plot. Worldbuilding and how it’s conveyed are different.

I don’t think it’s even any easier to sell a short story than it is to sell a novel. With so many online publications, it might have swung back lately, but without the online magazines, there are drastically fewer venues for short stories than there are publishers for novels.

I worry when the “write short stories first” advice gets spouted because if I had taken it, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I heard that advice when I was a teen wanting to write, and I tried writing some short stories. They all failed utterly, mostly because my brain was trying to write a novel, so when I came up to the end of the word count and I was just getting started, I threw in a rushed resolution. I had to get into romance writing, where short stories are something you’re more likely to do later in your career when you’re invited to participate in anthologies, and write a novel before I found out that this was a lot easier for me, and from there I was able to get back around to fantasy.

I make a living as a novelist now, and although I’ve written a couple of short pieces in my own world, I’ve never actually sold a short story.

So, if you want to write short and are good at it, then go for it. That’s a perfectly valid way to start a career. It just isn’t the only way, so if you don’t write short stories well, go ahead and write a novel.

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