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Short Stories or Novels: Which Should You Tackle First?

Haphazard stacks of booksIf you’re sliding into the end of November with a brand new novel draft in hand after NaNoWriMo, congratulations! If you didn’t quite reach the end of your novel, that’s okay too! What’s critical in either cases is that you finish. And then? You revise.

If you’re new to writing, you may find a lot of articles that suggest that you should tackle short stories before writing a novel. And while I personally have found a lot of benefits to writing short stories (and flash fiction, and poetry) that can be applied to novel writing, not everyone works in a similar way. There are plenty of novelists who don’t find writing short stories appealing or interesting.

On the flipside of that, there are some people who love writing shorter pieces who wouldn’t dream of tackling a novel. The amount of world-building and plot development that goes into a novel is far more work than they’re interested in undertaking. They may also prefer the immediacy of shorter fiction (or poetry), which consumes far less time. I can write dozens upon dozens of new shorter pieces in a year. If I write two first draft novels in a single year, that’s an astonishingly good year.

So much writing advice is one size fits most. And while you may learn things you didn’t know you needed to learn by writing non-novel length works, I’m firmly of the opinion that you should write what you like writing, rather than trying to write to the market. The market is an ever-shifting, nebulous thing, and something that seems timely and awesome could end up being old news by the time you’ve finished writing and revising (and revising some more … and editing … and proofreading). In today’s publishing universe, there are many options for publication of novels, and while a self-published or small-press published novel might not win you the acclaim (and, let’s be honest, cold hard cash) of a major publishing house, there’s no guarantee that a major publishing house will get you that either. The same can go for short story authors and markets, even for writers with professional publications under their belts!

So I say write what you like. Finish it. And revise it. And then write some more!


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