Experience in Writing Short Stories and Novels. This post comes from mystery author Jan Christensen. She’s a writer that has experience in writing shorts stories and novels.
When I first made a firm decision to become a writer, I decided that writing short stories could teach me a lot about how to make up a good story in, um, short order.
I was maybe half right. Writing short stories can spoil you because they are usually finished rather quickly. At least quickly compared to writing novels. And because I wrote so many (over fifty published, probably another thirty in various stages of just beginnings to having been submitted but rejected), I became addicted to writing them, even though I wrote a few novels, too.
I do think I learned how to write a better story by writing so many short stories. I came up with an enormous number of characters, plots, descriptions, and learned a lot about craft along the way. They work great with critique groups, and I belonged to several over the years. The critiquers get a whole story at one time to give advice about. They could tell right away if a beginning, middle, or ending worked or not and explain why. Critiquing a novel chapter by chapter doesn’t give the writer as much help with the overall project.
I know several writers who swear they can’t write short stories. And I know several more who much prefer writing shorts stories to writing novels or anything else. I guess I’m fortunate because I learned to enjoy writing both. I think some of that learning was by osmosis because I read a lot of shorts and a lot of novels. Stephen King, in his book, On Writing, said he believes in reading one hour for every hour he writes. Sounds like a good formula to me.
My final takeaway is to read a lot, write a lot (whatever length), to polish a lot, and to submit. Studying craft can be helpful, of course, but you can learn a lot by reading other work. And by writing your own.
Jan Christensen grew up in New Jersey and now resides in Texas. Organized to Death is her third published novel. She’s had over fifty short stories appear in various places over the last dozen years, two of which were nominated for a Derringer Award.
Jan mainly enjoys writing mysteries, but every once in awhile steps out of that comfort zone and goes for something else, including non-fiction articles. She has a column about reading in the ezine, “Mysterical-e” and blogs regularly at her website.
Check out her new book, Organized to Death
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