Are Short Stories Bright Shiny Objects for the Aspiring Novelist?

Author Blog

It’s the first day of August 2018, and I have had to officially ban myself from submitting or working on any short stories this month. Don’t get me wrong.. July was a blast. I submitted three short stories and learned lots while developing my craft. Exercising my writing muscles. But my targets for my novel were not reached, and it begs the question: is it useful to write short stories while writing a book? What do you think?

I think it can be because of the following:

  • It sharpens up your writing as it is practice for the more significant project.
  • It’s satisfying to finish a short story. A novel takes ages. It can give you hope in the midst of that deep, dense forest.
  • If you do get a short story published this will look good on your bio when you are approaching other places for publication.
  • In some competitions, you are forced to write in a specific genre which gets you out of your comfort zone and expands your horizons. Maybe rom-com isn’t as bad as you thought. In July I wrote a one thousand word romantic-comedy flash fiction story about a chihuahua and a bus station. It was actually a lot of fun, and there is no way I would have written it but for the competition.
  • Some of the competitions offer feedback. Feedback is priceless.

On the downside though, writing short stories when you are writing a novel can pull you away from what you are doing. For me, the short story is more accessible, and therefore much more appealing. I can dive into a short story as I can see that the end is not too far away. It’s not that they are easy. Sometimes far from it, like the one I just finished that challenged me to my very writer core. But they are easier to round off, polish, and to handle. Sometimes when I am writing my novel, and I’ve said this before, I feel as though I am trying to hang an enormous parachute on a short washing line. Okay, I changed that a bit. But the fact remains to find the beginning, the middle or the end is hard.

So why would anyone want to write a novel?

Answer: I’ve no idea.

Seriously. I just know I do. For as long as I can remember.

Anyway, the day got onto the more pressing matters of how to entertain your kids during summer holidays and not feel like a failing parent that just allows them to be on screens for hours on end. We managed some art together at least. Yesterday we visited an indoor play area with a great café, and I sat and steamrolled my way to the almost-end of that very long short story I was working on. It was truly a win-win. They didn’t, however, have a power socket, so my laptop battery did die, but, like every good old-fashioned writer I carry a notebook and a pen, so it wasn’t the end of the world. The solution is, of course, to get up hideously early and get the writing done before the kids wake up. Cue #5amwritersclub – that’s where you come in. Thanks, Twitter.

So, back to the novel, how does anybody finish one? I have a goal this month that Stephen King would eat for breakfast – 18,500 words. There, now it’s said, and my confession is made about July’s attempts. Here’s to a month’s snappier novel-writing and of course, to you with whatever you want to achieve this month.

Thanks for following,


Oh, here’s a picture of me yesterday evening, practically singing and dancing for joy after finishing that long short story I mentioned. Imagine how I will look when the novel is done!!


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