To Short Story or Not to Short Story


On this English weather afternoon, I am struggling with deciding which of the ideas rattling in my mind to craft into short stories or novels.

The simple answer may be to write out the story and see where it ends, but that does not always suffice because almost any story can be stretched into 90,000 words. Bradbury did it with Something Wicked This Way Comes and Hollywood has made a habit of turning short stories or novellas into feature-length films, such as Fitzgerald’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and King’s Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.

I am a firm believer that, as a writer, you need to understand where you’re going with your tale – all related to matters of pacing, info-dumping, world-building, etc – and thus it helps to root yourself in the knowing which direction you’re headed.

So, how do you make this distinction?

I am a victim of attempting to shoehorn short stories into novels – just the idea, not the actual writing – but I reined in myself by asking two questions:

Is it plausible for me to actually run with this for tens of thousands of words?

What kind of genre do I want to be known for?

Personally, the first question is usually answered with a definitive ‘no’, while the second is fantasy – more specifically, dark fantasy; despite that sounding like some sort of erotic fiction. These are sibling questions when you think about it, would you truly want to write a novel in a genre that does not pique your utmost interest?

Of course not.

And, as mentioned by several established authors, if you want to maintain a commercially successful career, you have to  keep to one genre. There are exceptions, but we’re speaking in generalities here.

Asking yourself these questions will streamline the process of writing, especially if you’re a bit desultory. By sweeping all but one genre of ideas into the short story/novella section, you will be free to stop worrying about how you’re going to stretch this idea or that idea into a full manuscript.

Because you’re not.

Stick with what is closest to your heart and allow the rest to be outlining bridges of short fiction.

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