The Challenges of Novel Writing for the Short Story Writer

I’ve always been a quick, efficient creator. Once I get the hang of something it becomes a study in how fast I can produce without sacrificing the quality of the final product. I produced a 3ft by 3ft complicated oil painting in one week, while my classmates struggled to complete less complicated paintings in two. I drew amazed gasps from my Philosophy Thesis class when I told them truthfully that I had produced my ten page paper in only six hours (four, if you count writing time only).

Fiction writing was much the same. I mastered getting stories written (and edited) in a single sitting.

So, naturally, I find novel writing to be rather difficult.

And not just the business of planning it out. Admittedly I have been mostly skipping that.

The big hurdle is getting to a stopping point, then coming back the next day and tackling the same story again. I can’t just ride on the intensive inspiration that allowed me to surf through the writing of my short stories. I have to remember the point of view, maintain the same style, and wrangle the same characters for months or in the case of my first novel (of which this is the third attempt to write it to actual novel length) years.

There is also that certain aggravating need to stick with more tried and true methods of storytelling. Short stories are ripe for experimentation. Try this one with no character descriptions. This one with no dialogue. This one in under x words. Write this one like an instruction manual. You can stick with strange stylistic choices all the way to the end and your readers won’t hate you too much if the choice isn’t the greatest. It only has to work for a handful of pages. Not so with novels, if the reader bumps into a stylistic choice that makes the novel drag, they’re going to abandon it and not come back. Our present world has too much easily accessible entertainment for anyone to bother with a book they don’t enjoy. Also, if the choice is hard to maintain, it can put a major strain on you, the writer. If you decide it doesn’t work 40,000 words in, guess what? You have to go back and change it. You can’t just switch it up for what’s left of the book.

Novels call for restraint, consistency, discipline, and dedication. After surfing on waves of inspiration and the ecstasy of creating, I have to learn to paddle doggedly down the river towards the goal.


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