Why I Write Short Stories Instead of Novels

A Naive Start

When I first started writing fiction, I had short stories in mind. I enjoyed fleshing out the characters and the scenes. Rather than put a larger novel together with multiple characters and subplots, I imagined stories that focused on one person’s predicament and growth. I wanted to shine a light on each character and how they were dealing with life.

My idea was for multiple short stories that were connected by characters who knew each other, but didn’t necessarily live in the same town. Not everyone would know each other in this world I had planned, but every character would be closely connected to at least one other person in another story.

Below is the start of my mind map showing how Jennifer, the main character in the first story, is connected to other characters. Some of those people, like Drew and Paul, are in her story, but the others were going to have their own stories.

Partial Mind Map for My Original Short Stories

After creating the mind map, I got very excited about each person and their backstory. I jumped into outlining character profiles for each person, and creating more detailed ones for Jennifer and Sarah who would be in my first two short stories. Then I got busy writing.

Listening to Feedback

I had completed the first short story and was halfway done with the second before I realized I needed help making sure I was telling a story people would want to read. Looking for eyeballs that weren’t friends or family, I joined a couple of critique groups – one in person and two online.

They were amazing, to say the least. I’ve learned so much from reading other people’s work as well as getting feedback from people who have no agenda except to help people improve their writing. Along the way, I noticed a common theme – many people were suggesting that I expand on the short stories I was submitting for critiques and make them full length novels.

I hadn’t considered that because I loved the short story format, but now that I was deep in my writing I thought that might make sense. So, I took one short story and started to expand it. I took it from 10,000 words to 56,000 words and then got stuck. I wasn’t sure if it flowed well or if the story scenes were in the right order.

I didn’t want to put out garbage, so I hired a book coach to look at what I had written, scene by scene. And she was incredibly helpful. Not just the order of the scenes, but what should stay in and should be cut; where I should insert dialogue and where it wasn’t needed; and how to get to the heart of what my characters are feeling.

Reality Sets In

Unfortunately, although I had written a lot of words, they didn’t form as cohesive a story as I had hoped. They were more like three short stories about the same character – not surprising, since that was the writing style I was comfortable with.

But I wanted to give this full length novel thing a shot, so with the guidance of my books coach, I edited and revised what I had written to be more in line with a novel. About 75% of the way into it I began to dread working on it. Sometimes the only reason I got much done was that I had a deadline to submit twenty pages every two weeks to my coach.

I lost interest in my character and what she was doing. I felt like I was just dragging things out for the sake of writing a novel. I realized that I truly did not like writing longer stories. So I stopped.

What I Did About It

I did finish the first draft of that book because I was getting a lot of good coaching and I didn’t want to just leave it hanging. I may break it into pieces for short stories later.

But, what I’m really excited about is that I’ve gone back to writing short stories. This time, the stories will center on the people of my fictional town of Posey Falls. Of course, new people will come and go in each story to add interest and expand the story lines, but the focus will always be on Posey Falls.

I’ve taken some of the characters from my original short story ideas and given them different story lines to fit the new structure. I’m excited to write again and looking forward to sharing Posey Falls and the wonderful people who call it home.

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