Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Novels vs short stories

I've started writing another novel. I'm still in the early stages - about 6,000 words in, but so far it's going well. I've done quite a bit of planning so I know more or less what will happen in each chapter, and can get on and write them relatively quickly.

This means short stories are on the back burner again, after a few months of writing and submitting them again (and a few welcome hits!)

I'm enjoying writing this novel. As with the last one, I find if I only have a few minutes, I can still add a bit to it. I leave my laptop switched on, and the document open (but saved) so it takes no time to get going again. With short stories, I need to have the whole story worked out in my head before I start to write, and I need a good couple of hours to get a complete first draft written. So unless I have a completely free evening, or half-day at the weekend, I won't start a short story. When writing a novel, however, as I can pick it up more quickly, I'm happy to add just a couple of hundred words while the dinner's cooking, or before heading off to Zumba class.

I know other writers who are the opposite - they can start a short story if they've only got ten minutes to spare, but need a couple of hours at a time on a novel, to re-read and edit the last section written, get back into the heads of the characters, and only then add more words.

What about you? Do you need a long stretch of time for a writing session, or can you make do with snatched minutes here and there?

20 comments:

Geraldine Ryan said...

That's funny, Womag. I never know where I'm going with a short story till I start writing it. I can just about see to the bend in the road, but that's all. I never write one in one sitting either. And I never just write till I get to the end. I have to go back to the beginning each time I take it up again and fix everything that's gone before that I don't like.

It's a while since I wrote a novel but I think I worked the same way with a novel and I do the same with serials. Fascinating thread!

Karen said...

You must have read my mind as I was planning a blog post on this very topic!

I've been debating over the past few weeks whether to give the stories a rest while I focus on the novel for a bit, but ideas keep popping up and I can't resist writing them down, then one thing leads to another.

They are a distraction though (however nice) and I find I don't become as immersed in my novel as I would if I wasn't writing stories too.

I'm confused!

Diane Fordham said...

With me when the muse strikes I take advantage of it. Whether it's novel writing or short stories, whether it's minutes or hours. Over the years I've dreaded those quiet times when the muse decides to vacation and my mind seems blank, so when the need to write is there I just do it! :-)

Frances Garrood said...

I find they're every very different. And since I've written novels, I've lost my enthusiasm for the short stories, which is really sad. I've tried, but I just can't get into it any more. Maybe one day...

Old Kitty said...

I need looooooong stretches of time to even write a sentence!!!! And I need prompts to inspire me - I think that's why I like entering comps with a theme - it focuses me. But I do take forever to write even a flash fic story! LOL! Yay you're enjoying your new novel - good for you! Take care
x

Patsy said...

I prefer to know I'll have a couple of hours uninterupted writing time but as I so rarely get that I've learned to make use of even a few minutes.

Helen Yendall said...

Good for you Womag - you're so inspiring! Can we ask - is it another historical novel or something completely different? And what's happened to your first, completed novel? Is it out in the wide world, looking for an agent?

JO said...

I wonder if the difference is our living with a novel in a different way. Our characters potter around in our heads even when we are ignoring them, which is what makes it easier to pick them up and give them a word or two. While short stories gestate in a different way.

Like you I need a couple of free hours for a short story, but am forever scribbling ideas in my notebook about a novel.

Jarmara Falconer said...

I jump between the two because I like to see the end of something and I know I've completed it. Sometimes novel are too long and seem neverending, so writing a short and playing around with it and finishing helps to keep me on track with a novel.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Great to hear you're writing another novel - I too would like to know how the first one is getting on!

I prefer to write for short stretches at a time but I'm intrigued that you had your novel planned out first. I write as I go for both long and short but I'm stuck about 50,000 words with a novel just now and think I'll have to go back and structure it better before moving on to the finish line.

Anonymous said...

Good that you're on to your second novel and that you've had a few hits with the short stories. I must say that the editors must respond very quickly to you - your stories must be good. Four months is the quickest response I've had and some of my stories are still out there after a year! Well done Womag Good wishes KH

Anonymous said...

I've just finished my first novel and because I wrote the final chapter after chapter one which followed the prologue I knew where I was going and was able to get to work whenever I could. With short stories I often write the first draft in one sitting then go back to it to edit. I find I lose enthusiasm if I take a bit by bit process. Interestingly, all the short stories I've sold have been the ones I just sat down and wrote very quickly. The ones I work really hard on tend to come back to me. I have found that after writing my novel I do not feel the same sort of enthusiasm for writing short stories - could be I'm just exhausted. KH

Captain Black said...

I usually need a longer stretch for working on novels, but my short stories are more seat-of-the-pants and can be done in shorter chunks of time.

One trick I used recently, when somewhat stuck on a novel, was to write a spin-off short story from it, using similar settings and characters. You might want to try that sometime.

Hurryat News said...

charymeAll the best for your another novel... keep it up
Essay Writing

Lydia said...

I've never written a successfully pubbed novel, so I'm not sure I'm qualified to talk about how I write longer work but with short stories I can write in snatches or longer periods but I usually know where I'm going! Good luck with new novel.x :)
www.lydiajones.co.uk

parlance said...

I am a very slow writer of short stories, so, like Jo, I live with the characters for a long time. I like to 'dream' the story rather than plot it out, so, like Geraldine, I don't quite know where I'm going.

I think a novel would take me a century, given that a short story can take me ten months or more.

womagwriter said...

Wow, so many different approaches!

For those asking about my previous novel - I got some professional feedback on it which confirmed what I kind of already knew, deep down - the novel is not really commercial enough, mainly because I based it on family history research and as such, it's too constrained. So I decided to put it to one side and write another, completely made-up this time!

Anonymous said...

Hi Womag - as always thanks for all the info. Well done on your positive approach to the feedback you received on your novel. I must say though that I have read some family history type novels in my time and rather enjoyed them and actually found it hard to let them go because I had been immersed in what appeared to be the real lives of real people. Maybe after a rest you will be able to enliven the story with your imagination. Can you not find an agent/publisher who works the type of material you've written? Good luck with the new one anyway KH

Colette McCormick said...

I gave short stories a break to concentrate on non fiction and now I find it very difficult to get back into the short story mind set. Good luck with the novel.

Jo said...

Short stories come really easily to me as I write. I never know where they're going, what sort of story it's going to be or anything when I start. I love watching where a story takes me. I can write a complete story (first draft) in half an hour. However, I need at least a couple of hours to get into the novel. I can't just pick up where I left off. I need to immerse myself in the characters' worlds first. I have written scenes the way I write a short story, but then I have trouble slotting them in the right place. I do struggle with the novel, I have to admit.