Short Stories, Novels. Nothing about WorldCon

Detail From Spencer Park Dentzel Carousel - Kevin Burkett

Detail From Spencer Park Dentzel Carousel – Kevin Burkett

Whenever a thought occurs before posting, said thought being along the lines of “Who can I annoy today?” it’s probably a bad time to be posting anything. Yet I’m going to do both now and again, so best to get on with it.

I’ve been thinking of the short story again as it relates to novels, since I’ve had more than enough reason to consider both lately. I know we’ve been over this before, yet I can’t say that my basic position has changed. Which is: If you want to write novels, write novels. If you want to write short stories, write short stories. If you want to do both, well, come sit next to me and we can compare notes. I’ve also noted some discussion here and there on the idea of the “natural” novelist as opposed to the “natural” short story writer, the theory being that your brain’s wiring tends to push you in one direction or the other. I think it’s true up to a point. I know we can all think of examples of the brilliant short fiction writer who can’t do novels, and some novelists that wouldn’t recognize a short story if it bit their ankles. Yet I wonder how much of this is based in biology and how much is training and craft.

There was a time when whatever notice I’d gotten as a writer was for short stories. Then the Yamada Monogatari series transformed into a novel series and I haven’t published an original short story in two years. That has to change, or at least balance out a bit. I love short stories. I love to write them and (when I get the chance) to read them. Yet I’ve also loved a novel or two in my time and one of the very earliest pieces of writing I ever did turned out to be a novel. And I don’t claim to be a “natural” anything. It took me a lot of time and work to reach professional level at short fiction. Novels were no different. Like writing anything, it’s a learning curve and we learn by doing.

Some people still think that they should write short stories first because they’re stepping stones to novels. Like many cliches, there’s a grain of truth in it. Short stories can be a way to get your name in front of the readers. Also, there’s nothing like getting paid for something you’ve written to make one think, perhaps, you’re on the right track. You might even get the attention of book editors. Heaven knows it has happened before. But it’s just as likely you’ll publish short stories that vanish, as we’ve oft noted, “like rose petals in the Grand Canyon.” You’ll have spent months, years, perhaps decades doing something other than what you really want to do and be no closer to achieving it.

Still can’t think of that as a good idea.