From the Short Story to the Novel

What differs between the short story and the novel for me? I am not talking about the reading of them or even the mechanics of them. There will be no twee creative writing tips that announce that the short story is a moment and the novel, geology. I find all that advice to be rather unhelpful when it comes to my writing. This is not big headed, and I know many fine writers who love the twee analogies and I have nothing against them because it works for them. It doesn’t for me but I do love a good inspirational quote, there is a fabulous one from Vonnegut about arsing around, and one from Bradbury which says love writing or bugger off, but in the end it is just you and the words, and you must love them. However, I spent time in a news room and in a newsroom there is one maxim: ‘Bloody write it’.

It is how I write it or bloody write it that differs. When I start a short story I have a loose kernel in my mind rattling around in the gaps until the noise drives me mad and I have to write the damn thing just to shut it up. A novel though is a slow burner, it lurks in my notebooks. The odd idea. The odd character. The ramblings of a longer narrative that fizzles out in notes and sketches. It is like I am a curator of a novel whereas a short story I am the therapist. The latter says, tell me your story. The fore says, tell me your story but let’s get it right and all down on paper. They both share a truism, that no matter the word count, half of it will flounder. As a writer I can write about eight short stories a year, sometimes twelve but not all of them will be published or even publishable. A novel though takes me years, it is the curating of a novel that takes time and remaining sane along the way.

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