Tortured by Novels

I am a short story writer.  The thing is that if you are not a short story writer this is a difficult concept to understand.  The only thing I can equate it to is music.  You find the instrument that you consider to be your voice.  I can play both the violin and viola very well but I consider myself to be a violist.  It's my instrument.  It's me.

The same goes for short stories.  The precise, compact writing style is my voice.  It's me.  Even before I started writing my brain would constantly think of new ways to streamline the story I was reading.  And now that I've been writing for a few years the problem is even more pronounced.  It's aggravating for me to read long, drawn out sections in a novel that serve no purpose whatsoever.

Is it really necessary for the heroine to be looping around in her head why she can't be with the hero a FOURTH time?  We know their issues.  Address the issues.  Maybe readdress the issues to remind the reader.  And then move on!

What's even more aggravating to me is that I'm haunted by the idea of writing a novel.  I mean, they sell way better than a short story.  Why do I put myself through the agony of writing story after story when I could just spend the time making one LONG story that may actually sell?

I've lost track of the number of times I've mentally succumbed to the novel's siren's song.  I sit down thinking: "This will be the story that I'll turn into a novel.  I'll drag out all the scenes.  I'll pad all the descriptions.  The works."

I write the story with this mindset.  And then it ends up being a 12,000 word novelette.

So I give up!  I'm tired of being tortured by novels.  If one happens to come out of my brain, that's great.  But in the meantime I am resolved to be content with my short story existence.


  1. As a self published novelist and short story writer I found this post very interesting. The first logical thought that came into my mind was well why don't you just keep expanding the short story plot to make it into a novel. I mean, not all novels are going around in circles, right? I think a writer such as you would write a novel with an extremely fast and intricate plot, which sounds exciting to me. Less description, less repetition, more action. I'm all for it :)

    H.S. Bajwa @ Short Stories

    1. You make a valid observation. I've chewed on those same ideas myself. The thing that I've come to realize is that you have to have those down points in order to make the action stand out. Otherwise it's like a roller coaster that doesn't stop. At first it's fun because you're going so fast. But if it kept going fast without any changes you'd get bored.

  2. Novels selling better than short stories is one of the reasons why we created the Short Story and Flash Fiction Society. We feel it has a lot to do with the fact that many people haven't even read short stories. They don't know the genre. They haven't even given it a try. So we feel if we do our best to promote the genre, people will give it a try, and eventually short stories will sell better.

    Short stories are more complete stories. Totally get what you are saying about the usual ramblings in novels that don't really add anything and they are just there to fill more pages (well known as fillers). In short stories, you don't have the luxury to do that. You have to go from point A to point B to point C and that means you have to stick to what is important and forget the rest.

  3. The more short stories you put out there, the more successful you will be. If you publish like one short story book every 6 months, chances are slim but if you commit to publishing one short story book a month, those chances are highly increased. Try sequels, if one reads part 1 he will want to read part 2. Or pick a certain theme for anthologies. If you try a theme like ''Anger'' for an anthology people will be intrigued enough to want to read what this is all about. Much better than an anthology that has a little bit of everything.

    1. Oh I completely agree. I'm always giving aspiring short story writers this advice. People always take the one and done approach. I didn't even start to see consistent royalty payments--albeit very small ones--until I had about 50 stories published.

      I now have just over 100 published across multiple pen names and the income steadily helps me to pay for small bills. I imagine things like car or house payments wouldn't happen until I was well over the 500 mark.

      But it's ok. It's a process and I enjoy it.


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