The Short Story versus the Novel

This week I heard that my short story, Perilous Truths, will be included in Bridge House Publishing’s anthology, Crime After Crime, due to be released in November. Receiving this confirmation sent a sizzle of excitement through me. Although this story was submitted over a year ago, and accepted last Christmas, I am learning that publishing house schedules mean stories can take some time to find their way into print. I can’t wait to share the cover art with you when they send it through.

Since I hooked up to social media a year ago, I have met many writers and read some wonderful short and flash fiction. My current favourite ‘shorties author’ is Susi Holliday (you can check out a sample of her work on her website ). Her suspenseful crime fiction appears in numerous anthologies and in my opinion she appears to have perfected the knack of drawing a reader into a fictional world in very few lines. No mean feat.

This summer I wrote a short murder mystery tale for an anthology of Rainstorm Press authors’ work. Fingers crossed my submission will be accepted. It was the first shortie I’d written in a long time and I really enjoyed the process. It made me wonder – why don’t I write more?

Like many writers I hold down a job and have family commitments. I guess time is always tight and in those spare moments I have, I like to concentrate on my novel. So, are there benefits to including short stories in our writing schedules?

Penning the story this summer gave me a well needed break from my second book. Whilst I love immersing myself in writing a novel, there are times when the twists and turns, clues, characters and plotlines can tie me up in knots and drive me to distraction. For some reason, I revel in giving myself unbelievable challenges to solve. Usually, at times like this, I take a step back and concentrate on research, or read one of the many books I have on the go, to let the dust settle.

It can be easy, when working on a large project to get carried away with words. Have you ever read a description or a scene in a book that you felt could be done in half the wordage? OK, so we’re not all perfect. But in short stories, just as in novels, every word counts and it seems more strikingly obvious when a writer is prone to verbosity.

I love the world of stories: getting to know the characters, testing them in different circumstances so that they become ‘real’. I enjoy plotting, working with the twists and turns that make crime fiction so fascinating; creating sub plots that run beneath the surface. I love building the excitement and tension of suspense. The challenge of writing a novel encompasses all these aspects and that is what draws me in, however I think that short story writing can assist with our craft because it enables us to focus on brevity, and convey our world to a reader with as few words as possible.

Do you read or write short stories? Do you find they help with brevity, when it comes to writing a full length novel? I’d love to hear your views.

8 thoughts on “The Short Story versus the Novel

  1. Hey, Jane. I started my writing career with short stories and have had 8 published so far. I have just started writing my first novel and find it really daunting. Therefore when I feel it is getting bigger than me I go back to writing a few stories to ‘ground’ myself and also, if I’m honest, to get validation. When I write shorties and they get published it reminds me that I am a pretty good writer. Getting stuck into my novel makes me forget that sometimes, as you know writing is a solitary beast. So for me shorties are my comfort zone that I have to sink back to every once in a while.

    • Hi Julie. Thanks for visiting & for raising such interesting points. I agree that novel writing can be daunting, it’s such a huge undertaking. Perhaps shorties can provide a welcome respite. I wish you all the best with your writing:)

  2. Hi Jane – firstly – thanks so much for mentioning me! This post has come at an interesting time actually, because I haven’t been able to write a new short for over a month as I have been concentrating on my novel. I can’t seem to do both – the novel form is very daunting and I feel like I can ‘nail it’ in a shorter piece but struggle with self-doubt with the longer work as I can’t really get any proper feedback until more of it is written! I think many writers struggle to switch forms – it was interesting to read the post above that mentioned using shorts as a break. I find that when I do that, it is so hard to get back into the novel! I think I may write a blog post about this from the other side!! Thanks, again, Jane – great post and good luck with your current work!

    • Thank you, Susi. I think novels are such a challenge & take a lot of work to get all the aspects just right. I’m very glad to hear you are writing one though! I’m sure with perseverance you’ll nail that too, and I very much look forward to reading.

  3. Hi, Jane. Congratulations on that short story being accepted. Aren’t you awesome? Pretty soon the closest that I’ll get to you is when your assistant tells you that the guy from California said hello again. 😉
    I’d have tons of time to write if not for social media and promotion. *sigh* Since I don’t, I only do one writing project a year. My mind is working all the time, but I just file that stuff away for another time. My interview answers explain all of this stuff. I finished that, by the way. I’ll send that to you soon.


    • Thanks for your lovely comment, James, although I’ll always be around, skulking in the shadows, LOL I agree that sometimes we only have a finite amount of spare time & must fill it as needs require. I look forward to the release of your second book, & to receiving your interview:)

  4. Congratulations on the publication! You must be thrilled.

    I was lucky enough to meet Susi at Harrogate Crime writing festival this summer and I know how much she likes writing short stories.

    When I decided that writing was to no longer be a dream, but something that I would actively do, I started with short stories, but I started with the short, short version of flash fiction and I loved it. I agree that it does hone the over wordiness that we can get carried away with. It might be an idea for me to give it another go! It isn’t something I have done since starting on the novel. There just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day!

    • Hi Rebecca! Lovely to see you here. That is interesting that you used to write flash fiction. Would love to read some of that. You are quite right when you say that time is tight and it’s yet another reason I haven’t written many shorties. I forgot how much I enjoyed it until writing this one! Note to self – make more time. Not quite sure how, LOL:)

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