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Old 02-12-2013, 07:20 AM   #1
kennyc
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Short vs Long

I think most here are novel writers, but I'm drawn more to the short story. I just read Joe's interview with Elizabeth Bear (see the blog forum http://www.mobileread.com/forums/sho...postcount=1025) and I like what she said about short vs. long:

Quote:
2.) How different is it putting together a short story for an anthology opposed to writing your novels, and which is more difficult?



Well, short stories and novels are very different beasts, and its hard to compare them. Short stories, obviously, are less physical work–by which I mean typing–than novels. They take less actual time to write. But I have had some that have taken years and years to figure out. And as for hardness–well, they’re also hard in different ways. Novels require sustained effort, attention to consistency, sustained invention. Short stories require concise brilliance, no wasted movement, perfectionism and attention to detail.

If you think of them as the difference between grandfather clocks and pocket watches, you will see what I mean.

Novels can sprawl a little. They have room for grace notes and flourishes and cuckoos and little mechanical figurines. Novels can have some white space in them.

In a good short story, on the other hand, everything needs to be doing about six things at once, and if one tiny thing is a little bit out of line, it throws the whole mechanism off. The tolerances are much tighter.
What are your thoughts? Do you write novels instead of stories or do you do both? If you've done both what are your thoughts on the differences, the difficulties?
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Old 02-12-2013, 07:26 AM   #2
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I've only the one 50+k drafted out, and only a few shorties - I suppose it depends on time, commitment and the story opportunity.

How would you define 'short' ?
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Old 02-12-2013, 07:34 AM   #3
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Really anything less than a novel I suppose but anything from Flash fiction - a few hundred words -to say 10K or so words? Different genres have different definitions.

From here: http://alternatewars.com/Fiction/Fiction_Lengths.htm

Quote:
Tolstoy Novel: 500,000+ words and up. (Atlas Shrugged is 645,000 and War and Peace is 560,000)

Michener Novel: 290,000 words and up. (Space by James Michener)

Full Length Novel: 100,000 to 120,000 words. (Rogue Clone Series)

Near Full-Length Novel: 80,000 to 90,000 words. (Stark's War Series)

Children's Novel: 50,000~ words per book. (Water Series by Kara Dalkey; 230~ pages in large type; roughly 5” x 7.5” paperback.)

Mid-Length Novel: 50,000 to 60,000 words.

Novella (SFWA): 17,500 to 40,000 words. (Animal Farm has 30,000~ words)

Novelette (SFWA): 7,500 to 17,500 words.

Short Story (SFWA): Under 7,500 words.

Last edited by kennyc; 02-12-2013 at 07:36 AM.
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Old 02-12-2013, 07:51 AM   #4
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I agree with Elizabeth Bear. Before NaNoWriMo last November I'd written only short stories, and I was astonished at how much easier it was to get into the flow with the novel length work.

With the short story I think you have to have one central jewel of an idea and polish it to make it shine, with no distractions.

With the novel you can have multiple threads and switch between them to keep up the pace and interest. That isn't to say that every part of the novel shouldn't shine by the end of your revisions and editing, I'm sure it should, but there's more going on to spawn new associations and keep you flowing while writing the first draft.

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Old 02-12-2013, 08:05 AM   #5
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Thanks for your thoughts Graham.
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Old 02-12-2013, 08:16 AM   #6
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For me, Elizabeth Bear quite pinpoints the essence of 'short', there is no room to extras. Maybe it's because we read short stories and novels with different intensity, one variable being the time we expect to spend with the story. Thus novel can sprawl here and there but sprawling in short story under 7kWords jumps one's eye, not to talk too large variety of viewpoints and figures.

Though, I havent been able to finish my lines for few attempts to novel, they always seem to broke in smaller parts, the line is broken, the bridges collapsed and result is anthology with sprawling sparrow squadron for a text; I'm used to project softwares at work but authoring consistency does not hold, however the draft lines are created.
Perhaps just impatience.
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Old 02-12-2013, 08:19 AM   #7
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Thanks Mike.

So are you working on novel-length works?
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Old 02-12-2013, 08:48 AM   #8
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I dunno - I almost see a novel like a collection or series of short stories. My books are in the 100-110k word range. There is way to much in there for anyone to keep everything in mind, so you end up with a sliding window of memory, in which you are in a short story.

I have written both - but only published novels...
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Old 02-12-2013, 09:03 AM   #9
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Thanks Vincent.

A couple more things.

One thing I didn't say in the O.P. - Do you choose to writer long vs. short due to financial considerations? (all surveys/indications/folklore is that novels sell and short stories don't)

just wanted to say that one of the best short stories I've read in the last couple of years was a collaboration by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette called Mongoose. I looks like you can read it on line here if you are interested: http://books.google.com/books?id=nHA...onette&f=false

I read it in the Year's Best SF #27 as per that link.

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Old 02-12-2013, 09:42 PM   #10
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Just about every idea I've ever had for a story has fit in the 1000 to 5000 word window.
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Old 02-12-2013, 10:42 PM   #11
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Maybe I'm a victim of a limited attention span or a lack of creativity but I find it almost impossible to write more thasn 20k words. So I would have to agree that short versus long is a very different skill set and I'm yet to develop the skill set for working on grandfather clocks.
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Old 02-12-2013, 11:08 PM   #12
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I agree that Short Stories are different from Novels. It's like the difference between an episode of a T.V. show and a Movie. Even if the T.V. program is part of a larger whole as far as story arc you still have to fit the basic elements of character, plot, problem, conflict, and resolution of the story being told in that episode within a period of 45 minutes instead of the 90 minutes or more of a full length movie. Movies like Novels can have subplots and multiple story arcs while there isn't as much room to do that in a single episode of a series or in a single short story. Novels let you explore at a slower pace than with the short story too I think. While both jump right into the story from page one it's a more hurried pace in a short story than in a novel length story, and not every story can be told in both formats I don't think either. I re-read 'Zen' a short story by Jerome Bixby last night and I don't know how he could have made it into a Novel.
Spoiler:
The story tells how an astronaut (the narrator) finds the last female Zen and introduces her to a male Zen found on another asteroid. The premise is that their home world had been what is now the asteroid belt.
That doesn't mean he couldn't have done it, only that I can't see how he could have stretched the basic story any longer than he did.
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Old 02-12-2013, 11:36 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kennyc View Post
One thing I didn't say in the O.P. - Do you choose to writer long vs. short due to financial considerations? (all surveys/indications/folklore is that novels sell and short stories don't)
Me? No. I choose long verse short, because that is what I enjoy writing.
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Old 02-13-2013, 02:41 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kennyc View Post
Thanks Mike.

So are you working on novel-length works?
Not for a while. At the future I might 'train' by expanding a short story.
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Old 02-13-2013, 09:01 AM   #15
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The only short stories I've done for a very long time don't really count, they're written in context of a larger framework, mostly missing pieces and background information, most of them not intended for anyone but me.

I think the biggest reason why I don't do short is that I don't enjoy reading short stories much any more. Even the good ones tend to leave me feeling unsatisfied, I'm just getting comfortable and they're finished. There have been a few exceptions in recent years, but only very few. I love to be able to settle in for the long ride. Each writer has their own tone and style, each story has its own feel. I find that, now more than ever, I like to get comfortable with that and roll around in it for a while.

Of course saying that puts me in an awkward position if I ever decide to try and write short stories for publication. ... But no one here would be so rude as to bring this up then, would they?
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