Novels and Short Stories are NOT the same

Poe short story

I’m working on writing a novel.  It’s been an in-depth, serious, ongoing project for almost three years and I don’t know when I will get it done.  Maybe this year?

Conversely, I’ve written lots of short stories and novellas since high school (or even earlier, but I don’t really count anything I wrote before I was thirteen).

I don’t think I’ll post my novel stuff on here, but I plan on sharing short stories relating to it and background info for it.  I have noticed that there is a big difference between the style I have for writing short stories and the painstaking work it takes to attempt to craft a novel.

Let me expound on the differences in my experience:

A short story has a definite beginning, middle, and end and is distinctly smaller in length than a novel.  This means that descriptions must be concise, action must move, dialog must snap, and you should aim for something that your readers could handle in one sitting.  This is because short stories are measured conservatively at 2000 words and generously at 15,000, give or take a couple hundred.  I tend to read a short story in about fifteen minutes though I’ve enjoyed some that are a smidge longer. I can write a well-crafted short story in a day or two (8-10 hour shift each day and not counting pre-writing), and spend a few days or maybe a week of this time drafting it to my satisfaction.  (Which, between you and me, if I’m being honest, never happens.  I end up still wordsmithing things a month later.  It’s awful.  I should stop…)

A novel stretches this out while still maintaining a good pace, has overarching themes and a solid plotline — more than one, or a main plot and some sub-plots in most cases of really good novels, and a wider array of characters, a deeper scope to the setting, and more backstory behind everything. They also top over 100,000 words, typically, and that’s on the light side of things. Mega novels like Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series were expected to hit 400,000 words in each book.

Holy Crap-on-a-Cracker…

Yeah, I’m going to try and get there.  I just keep chugging along.

I’ve also noticed that I write my novel with a tight third-person POV while my short stories often have my characters switching or sharing POV prominence or I go for a third-person omniscient POV.  I think I do this in order to maximize the detail and insight.  It seems easier to write for “Person A’s” feelings and thoughts and then to write “Person B’s” feelings and thoughts in response to that. I’ve tried writing short stories in the focused third-person POV, but it just doesn’t work for me.  So that’s an ongoing process while I attempt to get my “short story brain” remapped and make that happen.

I feel like I’m a short-story author who is working on a novel and it’s kicking my ass.  But, I love it, and so here I go again.

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