Monday, June 27, 2011

In Which I Decided Not To Be Lazy

I originally planned just to throw up a nice easy post for today since I had the conference all weekend, but now I've changed my mind. The conference spawned at least 3 blog posts ideas, not to mention a post about the actual conference (tentatively scheduled for Wednesday) so I figured I could at least talk about something.

On Friday, Hannah and I had lunch with Elise Matthesen (who is like the most awesome person EVAH! I'm serial. We thought this last year too. She's one of those people that as soon as you hear her talk you want to be her friend/stalk her/be her).




We were discussing how novel writing and short story writing are two different skills and that not every writer possesses them.

She said it angers her when novel writers say "I need to write some short stories to try and break in" and then short story writers state "I need to write novels because there's no money in short stories" (which is when Elizabeth Bear pointed out that there's no money in publishing anywhere).

Anyway, to illustrate the original post, Elise had Patricia C. Wrede tell an amusing anecdote.

Pat announced that she had sold every single novel she has every written (which is CRAZY!) but when asked how many of her short stories she'd sold it was only about 50%.

She was a perfect example of someone who could write novels, but couldn't translate that skill over to short stories.

This isn't the case for everyone. I can write both. Elise just wanted people to stop worrying about trying to "break in" or to write something you weren't suited for just because someone else tells you to. You have to do what's right for you.

So how about you? Can you do only one or the other? Or are you one (like me) who can do both?

26 comments:

yokohamamama said...

How extremely interesting! Well! That explains Steven King perfectly to me-- no wonder I think his short stories are great and can't stand his novels (they always make better movies because they get... *edited*). Aha. That makes tremendous sense to me. Just like some people can knit, but not crochet very well, and vice versa. And a few people can do both equally well. Or something like that;-)

yokohamamama said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
M.J. Fifield said...

I can't write short stories to save my life. Every one I sit down to write just seems to turn into a novel.

Loving that tee shirt, by the way. I wants one, precious.

Christine Danek said...

Love the T-shirt. I haven't tried writing a short story. My plots always seem way to complicated and need lengthy description. Maybe I just talk too much. Interesting though. I will check out the links. Thanks.

Teebore said...

I suppose I *can* do both (at least from a non-publishing standpoint), I just don't. My biggest problem with short stories is that since I don't really read any, most of my ideas come out as novels, because that's the format I read more often.

Hannah Kincade said...

I feel like I can do both or at least, flash fiction and full novels. I never thought I had to do one before the other. Good thing too because I'd still be working on those short stories. Ha!

Hannah Kincade said...

And yes, Elise is awesome. Also, I found a sister writer in Caroline Stervermer.

Matthew MacNish said...

I can write flash fiction, and I hope I can write novels, but I'm pretty sure I can't write short stories.

K. Turley (Clutzattack) said...

I tried to write a short story then grew frustrated when I had to keep the word count down. I'm definitely a novel person.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

Yokohama - ooh i love SK novels, but then, i totes love how long and developed they are. Give me The Stand any day! But yes, i love his short stories too

MJ - and that's OK! I always know my short stories are always too short for a full novel when i start out

Christine - i can only really do horror short stories because it's easier to keep that scary ending to a minimum word count

Teebore - yeah i find the less i write short stories, the less ideas i have for them. I used to write a lot more of them but not recently

Hannah - Hah!! And i'm definitely going to bring up that awesome brunch in a later post!

Matt - if you can do flash fiction, i bet you could do short stories. The trick is just to stretch them out little by little.

Clutz - boo on frustration! And yeah, i can definitely see that

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've written both, but I've never tried to place the short stories. So no idea if I do them well or not. (And right now, most would need a serious rewrite anyway.)

Nate Wilson said...

I like to think I can do both, even if I've never actually finished a novel. But I know I'm equally talented at procrastinating with stories of both lengths.

Hart Johnson said...

I can't write a short story to save my life. I am too much about character growth and I strongly lean toward a complicated plot that takes some time to build. I've done some fan fiction ones that are pretty decent, but they rely on characters I know the reader already really knows (and a history they are familiar with), so some subtle behavior is understood on a pallet that is already there.

And what do you know... I found my way in anyway... Side door was left opened. (so I totally agree--each person needs to find what works for her)

Glad the conference seemed to inspire you so much!

Ellie Garratt said...

I'm hoping I can do both. I've had several short stories published, and adore writing them. But the reason I wrote short stories to begin with was to practice my writing skills and boost my confidence by having my writing published. So far, the plan is working. I'm now 73K into the first draft of sci-fi novel and planning another. Whether I'll ever be a published novelist remains to be seen!

Glad you had such an amazing time at the conference.

Ellie Garratt

Shannon said...

Interesting question. For me - novel, yes. Short story, no. Wine and movie reviews? Yes! :)

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

Alex - do you have plans to rewrite them?

Nate - Hah! My hat's off to you, sir!

Hart - yeah that makes a lot of sense. And fanfiction is so awesome

Ellie - it sounds like you're doing great!

Shannon - Hah! Well those are defintely good skills to have

Talli Roland said...

Hm, very interesting. I hadn't really thought about it - nor have I tried to write many short stories. In fact, I've only written one!

LisaAnn said...

I haven't tried to write short stories since college, but I really loved providing those "slices of life," as opposed to the huge character arcs of novels. Seems like I'm mostly filled with those huge character arcs nowadays, but I'd definitely love to try my hand at short stories again sometime soon...

I'm also giving out awards on my blog this evening... You should definitely stop by to collect yours if you'd like! :)

Caledonia Lass said...

Gah! Okay, I'll stop telling myself to write a short story to break in and gain a following.... lol!
I can write both, just don't ask me which one I prefer. I enjoy them equally.
By the way, I'm not stalking you. We're just playing tag and you refuse to be 'it'. XD

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

Talli - hey! One is better than none!

LisaAnn - that's what i like about short stories too. I'll check out your blog right now

Caledonia - i like them both for different reasons too! And no worries, i was working on your MS just this afternoon!

Maria Zannini said...

I've written short stories, novels, and now novellas, so I guess I'm a multi-length author.

I didn't think I'd like the novella size at first. I started reading them when I found my free time greatly diminished and now I almost prefer them to full novels.

So I decided to write one, and yup, I like'em.

Rain Laaman said...

Wait, Patricia C. Wrede was at the conference? Did you MEET her?

Rebecca T. said...

I'm definitely a novel person. Though I have written 1 short story that I really, really like. I've also done fairly well with flash fiction under 1000 words, but normally I just can't work out a short story.

Interesting topic! I can't wait to hear more about the conference.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

Maria - Novellas are growing on me, too

Rain - she was and i did! I had brunch with her on sunday!

Rebecca - oh, there will be plenty more on the conference. You'll probably be sick of hearing about it

Rain Laaman said...

That's awesome! I love her Dealing with Dragons series.

Joseph said...

Writing short stories means beginning as close to the conclusion as possible, and grabbing the reader in the very first moments.


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