Why I’m Writing Short Stories Instead of Novels

I’ve always considered myself a novelist. I love long involved stories, the more epic the better. As a kid I loved The Chronicles of Narnia, then I read The Lord of the Rings and others (The Silmarillion, etc.) I love a thick novel with a thick plot (like The Historian), and my favorite TV show is the sprawling sci-fi epic Babylon 5.

And so, I began writing what I loved reading. In middle school I had an epic fantasy series that I wrote on for several years (I’d planned to make it a seven book series, and wrote first drafts of about two and a half books). When I first started this blog a few years ago, I was working on an epic fantasy trilogy inspired by the folktales of Finland.

While I have not given up on either fantasy series, both have been temporarily shelved and I’ve started writing short fiction. Because of my love of long epic stories, I never thought of myself as a short story writer.

One of the things I like about epic fantasy and long series of novels is the intricate plots. I also love the depth of world building that goes into longer works. And of course I fall in love with the characters. All of these things apply to both my reading and my writing habits. I didn’t think I could write short fiction because I considered it too simple (i.e. no complex plots), too short for world building, and not enough time with cool characters.

As I’ve started writing short stories, I’ve been learning that all of those preconceived notions I had were wrong. I won’t go into all the nuances of how to write a good short story (as I’m still very much a novice myself). But the skill of packing a lot of important world-building, character development, and plot points into very few words is a great skill to have. As I said, I’m still learning; but I’m learning that two sentences of description will work just as well as two pages. Nobody needs to read a travel brochure of my awesome fantasy world; a brief setting that actually moves the story along works much better.

One other important point that led to my decision to start writing shorter works: I could get a story published much faster. At the rate I was going with my Finnish folktale fantasy series, it would have been another 3-4 years before the first book was ready to share with the world, let alone the rest of the series. But a short story I could write in a month, send it off to an editor, and have something decent to put on Amazon in something less than several years.

Now I realize that there are plenty of actual full-time professional authors who can crank out two short stories a week, or a couple of novels in a year. My schedule and my discipline are not at that level yet, but that’s a topic for another blog post. At any rate, I’m excited about what I’ve accomplished so far, and I’m excited about what I’m learning.

And even though I’m not currently writing long epics, I’ve still got some of the elements of it because I’m writing a series. It’s a series of short stories rather than novels; so even though each tale is short and not extremely complex, I have the freedom to gradually build the world and to stick with the same characters.

The series I’m writing right now is diselpunk – it’s historical fantasy set during 1920s Hollywood, with some elements of magic and retro sci-fi thrown in. My main protagonist Cornelia Jones and her supporting cast of loyal servants, mafia bosses, and other assorted characters will tie each stand-alone story into an ongoing series and a complex world.

If you want to check out the first two Mrs. Jones tales or my other short works, you can see all of them on my Amazon page. I’m falling in love with the short story process, and I plan to keep putting out shorter works for a while. Here’s to the joys of short stories!

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2 thoughts on “Why I’m Writing Short Stories Instead of Novels

  1. I went the other way around. I’ve been a short story writer for much of my life and only in 2010 I wrote my first true novel. By this I mean a story that was thought as a novel, not a very long short story as I did a couple fo times before.

    Writing short stories and writing novels are two very different skills, but I think one can implement and help the other, if we can write both media.

    As for myself, I did think about writing short stories so to publish them faster (and honestly, I’ve fancied about writing serialised stories since I was a kid), it would make sense. Only problem is I’m not a fast writer. Even when I write short stories and even if it does take a lot less to get them into publishing shape than novels, I still need a few months to have a short story ready to go.
    You know, this is the main reason why I don’t think I’m cut to be an indie author.
    But I’m still trying this path because there’s so much to learn form it nontheless 🙂

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    • A lot of people start out writing short stories, and then move into longer works. I think I might have done it backwards, by starting with the the long stuff. 😛 And you’re right that writing and selling short stories as an indie author isn’t easy – I’m a slow writer, too, which is why I have only two stories published thus far in my dieselpunk series. But I’m having fun with it, and as you said, there’s so much to learn from this whole process! 😉

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