Short Stories vs Novels: A Taste of Both Worlds

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With The Life & Times of Ichabod Brooks, I’ve stepped more into short stories than I did before.  Normally, I’m more of a novelist with a love of series as you can tell from Legends of Windemere.  I dabbled a bit because you can’t get away with full-length novels in English classes.  You have to keep things short and tight since there are multiple students to grade.  Now, would I say one is better than the other?  No because they each have their own strengths and weakness.  Here are some from my own experience, which I’ll admit is limited.

Short Stories

Pro–  Takes less time to outline, write, and edit.  This makes it a great project when I have limited time and want to flex the imagination.

Con– Too many plot twists can ruin it because of the short length.  I love throwing curve balls and surprises, but I can only do 1-2 in a short story.  Otherwise, the plot collapses and the effect of the twists disappears.

Pro–  Helps focus on one character that might be overshadowed in a longer work.  The limited time and page amount means I can’t wander off to investigate another character or a fleeting idea.  The protagonists need to remain the focus.

Con–  A single short story is hard to rationalize for buying cover art and publishing.  This is more about the return since a single short story shouldn’t really be priced higher than 99 cents.  You won’t make your money back here.  Doing a collection can help, but then you’re pricing higher.

Pro–  You can experiment with short stories more than in a novel.  I can test out monsters, traps, style changes, and other things that I’m not sure about for a novel.  Some of these require that the short story be in the same world as the novels though.

Con– Limited page amount means my imagination can work against me.  My typical desire to follow every rabbit hole and see how the network connects could turn a short story into a messy novel.  So, I have to rein myself in at times.

Pro– Readers need less time to read the book.  Self-explanatory.

Novels

Pro–  More space for developing characters and world-building.  This is the big one for me because I love this part of writing.  Short stories can do this if you only have one protagonist to work with, but a group can flourish better in a bigger work.

Con– Takes longer to outline, write, and edit.  You can’t just do a novel on a whim even if you’re a pantser.  It takes more time that you have to carve out and I’m talking more than a 15-30 minute period.  Novels require longer stretches of time and a more winding continuity that you have to keep in mind.  The more breaks, the higher the chance of derailing.

Pro–  You can let your imagination run wild at times because you aren’t trying to keep the story in a small page amount.  Adding 15 pages because you found a spot where the hero can deal with a side problem that connects to the plot is okay.  You don’t have to feel like you’re casting good ideas aside and hoping something else will come along to absorb them.

Con–  The longer length means you have a higher chance of making a mistake.  The wide and expansive nature of a novel requires that the author remembering everything that happened previously.  Even a stand-alone needs you to connect the events of Chapter 12 to Chapter 1 without leaving any gaps.  It’s easy to get lost in your own ideas as you travel along the path.

Pro– You can pull more excerpts, quotes, and topics for promotions.  There is less of a worry about spoilers since you have more to work with.  Even if something slips out, there’s a higher chance of missing context turning it into a mystery.  You can stretch out a novel’s promotion for a lot longer than a short story.

Con–  Just as the author needs time to write it, the readers need to invest more time in a novel than a short story.  Attention spans are shorter these days and it seems like everybody is wishing they had more time to read.  So they gravitate toward short stories and graphic novels.

Pro–  You can have a more winding character and plot development since you have more time.  A short story can only have so many rises and dips, but a novel is able to have as many as are needed.  For example, a hero in a short story getting betrayed halfway through probably won’t have much time to escape, train, and/or get revenge as well as finish the original quest.  It can feel rushed while a novel can show it all at a slower pace.

Final Thoughts

I’ve found that I do prefer novels for some ideas and that’s my more comfortable wheelhouse.  Yet, I also like the use of short stories in a compilation format.  I’m looking at a few series that were giving me problems and putting them in a short story compilation style.  I think it helps a lot with series that aren’t as endgame-focused as Legends of Windemere.  Characters who are going about their business being heroes can be put in a book where every short story is a new enemy to fight.  Hopefully, this is the key to solving my superhero problem and giving Ichabod Brooks a few more outings.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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51 Responses to Short Stories vs Novels: A Taste of Both Worlds

  1. Wonderful pro/con post. You know I love the short form. I like to use it to learn new writing skills too. I tried an epistolary style as a short story. I recently released some second person POV pieces, and I think all of it improves my game. You could almost call it “Experimental.”

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    • Is that a hint that a third Notebook is in the future? 😀 Testing out new styles is definitely easier with a short story. You get to focus on the basics that way instead of all of the subplots and evolution that go into a larger work. What’s an epistolary style? Sorry if you explained this once before to me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • There will be more Notebooks. I always intended for that to be ongoing. I got distracted by baseball. Epistolary style involves reviewing old documents, ledgers, and letting the reader find the clues along with the character. I need to take another stab at it some day. I checked it off my bucket list, but think there are ways to do it better.

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      • That style reminds me of the video games where you find documents to uncover the story. Although, that’s more of a side quest thing since the information wasn’t always important to succeeding. Thinking of Resident Evil 2 where you can go through it all without reading about the background.

        Do you have a white whale style on your list? The one that you feel like you have to work up to?

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      • There was a popular game years ago where that’s all you did. You had to pull a lever and explore an abandoned city. Gather a clue here and there. It was interesting, but I could never figure it out. Very similar style, only we get the use of dialog and characters to help guide the story. Our character can draw a conclusion to move things along. No white whale, just as things occur to me. I like a chest full of tools at my disposal.

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      • Are we talking about Myst? That sounds like Myst. I was really bad at Myst.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes! That’s the name. I was really bad at it too.

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      • They don’t make games like that anymore, do they?

        Liked by 1 person

      • I haven’t heard of one. It was popular in its day.

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  2. A great list of pros and cons to novels and short stories, Charles.

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  3. Oh, when you have nothing else to do, check out Maplecroft by Cheri Priest. It has an epistolary style and she’s one of my favorites.

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  4. Interesting pro and con analysis on short story vs. a novel. Charles. I’m with you I prefer a novel. However, I do use short stories to relax. When I get brain tired on a novel, I find a short story to be like a busman’s holiday (You know, ride the bus on a day off.)

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  5. L. Marie says:

    Great assessment of the pros and cons of both. I’m rubbish at short stories, so I admire authors can pull off a short story collection while writing novels too.

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  6. Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Here is a great post from Charles Yallowitz on the pros and cons of short stories vs. novels.

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  7. noelleg44 says:

    Great post – good pros and cons. So do both! I alternate. PS I’m a pantser!

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    • I’m a big planner. Helps me write quickly and handle the constant distractions that seem to be a part of my life.

      Liked by 1 person

      • noelleg44 says:

        If I outlined, planned etc, I would be bored when I wrote – all the creative stuff would be done – but that’s just the way I look at it!

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      • I’m the opposite. If I do it without a plan then it takes forever because of researching and needing to design characters on the spot. With a plan, I can just write and enjoy seeing the plot points connect and focus a bit more on character development and continuity.

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  8. Great post. After writing 4 collections, one novelette and 4 novels, I’ve been leaning toward short stories for the future. Then, I took on a ghostwriting gig for another novel. Go figure…

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  9. AlayhayJones says:

    Nice pro/con list. Amen on that “it takes longer to write” con with novels. These things tire me out so much even if I prefer them more.

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  10. ashyspeaks says:

    Nice and accurate thoughts. Reblogging on ashyspeaks.wordpress.com

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  11. Pingback: Short Stories vs. Novels! – Ashy Speaks

  12. Sigmund22 says:

    Thanks for this! This was really informative since I’ve only done short stories and I hope to try writing a novel sometime soon.

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