2017 Top 5: #5- Short Stories vs Novels: A Taste of Both Worlds

(This whole thing was a lot more difficult than I realized it would be.  A lot of the top 5 ended up being promos that didn’t work any more.  So, I stuck with things that were topics for conversation and posted originally in 2017.  This was off views.)

This post originally went live on July 24th.

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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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24 Responses to 2017 Top 5: #5- Short Stories vs Novels: A Taste of Both Worlds

  1. I can see why this was in the top 5. Good one.

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  2. L. Marie says:

    I agree with John. A really good analysis of short stories versus novels. It’s great that you have short stories and novels under your belt. I admire anyone who can write a good short story. I have trouble writing them.

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  3. I love short stories, so I confess to a certain bias here 🙂

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  4. I love short form as you know. The electronic age breathed new life into them, and I am glad. I try to offer a bit of everything with the idea that someone might return after test driving one of the storybooks. Great pro/con breakdown.

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    • Thanks. It is starting to feel like ebooks are favoring shorter works. Wonder if part of it is a desire not to stare at a screen for too long.

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      • Our lives don’t allow for that quality few hours anymore. Think of your own life: “Dad? Dad? Dad?…” And yet, I’m behind the curve because I don’t have a series out. There are readers who prefer those.

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      • Sad thing is that the ‘Dad? Dad? Dad?’ stuff isn’t the actual time sink. It’s the errands, chores, unexpected disasters, and dealing with other adults that get in the way. Just have to let the kid play with his Legos and put on rock music to make him happy and entertained.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Short stories can be fun, but I’m permanently in the novel camp, the longer, the better! 😄

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  6. I had forgotten about this one, but I think it was one of your best posts from last year about writing.

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  7. Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Charles Yallowitz compares short stories and novels in this post from his Legends of Windemere blog.

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  8. Great analysis. I am definitely in the novel camp for reading. Short stories seem to end about the time I’m feeling comfortable that I’ve gotten to know the characters.

    For writing, I need to practice more with short stories. The educational benefit should not go unmentioned. Writing short stories definitely teaches to tighten up the writing and only use necessary words. I write short stories for our local writer’s club. (BTW…not many that I am particularly proud of…lol)

    I am tangential and need to be reigned in. My editor has his work cut out for him. I also like being able to have a variety of scenes and plot twists. Novels are a lot more work and definitely a commitment, but it’s an awesome feeling to get one accomplished.

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  9. Half the time, I start working on a short story and it turns into the first three chapters of a novel.

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