Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Differences Between a Short Story and a Novel #1

My first in a series of differences between a short story and a novel.

A teacher once told her class that a novel is just a short story, only longer. Length is true, but there is so much more.

I found this out the hard way. I began a short story 24 years ago and gradually developed it into a novel by sheer perseverance.  Here's what I discovered:

Overall difference:
  • A novel is a journey, not only for the characters, but for the writer and the reader.
  • A short story is an intense experience--something to linger over and savor.
Difference One: Length

A novel is a larger scale project that takes a lot more stamina than a short story. I takes so long to write that you must have a complex and sustainable idea. You have to be ready for the long haul and to commit yourself to a large amount of writing time.

It's easy to lose track of your writing,  I am not an outline keeper. For me, it would kill the muse. I discovered the story by writing it. At least I had completed the short story. Novel development is complicated. Some novelists keep chapter summaries in a spreadsheet or use software to organize chapters and scenes. I  plodded forward by the seat of my pants. Wrote chapters out of sequence and fitted them in as I went along. Difficult to manage, perhaps, but my right brain insists on chaos. I envy writers who can outline, develop a synopsis, create characters and scenes before even beginning the novel. Would I write another novel in the same fashion?  Absolutely!

There are as many different novel methods as there are writers. I had only a vague idea of what would happen in the story until I finished it. But I had a Marine with PTSD, his dog, and the dialogue between them. The plot developed from there.

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