Many consider novels to be a more intimidating form of writing than the short story, but to me, short stories are more difficult for these three reasons:
1. It’s hard to boil a story down until it’s concise enough.
With a novel, you’ve got room to sprawl. Short stories, especially those under 2,000 words, often feel like they moved a little too fast. It’s difficult for me to really get involved with a short story since the writing and revising are over so much faster than with a novel. For that reason, I prefer novels. Yes, you have to boil them down, but with a short story, the reader is hyper-aware of pacing errors and the overuse of words.
2. It’s more difficult to achieve a balance of story elements. (characters, description, etc.)
There just doesn’t seem to be enough room in a short story. How can you develop a character well in such a short space? What about description? Setting? A concrete and tightly-woven plot? Whenever I write short stories, the secret to balancing these elements often eludes me. I often end up with well-developed characters, but not much of a plot. When I go back to develop the plot better, my word count balloons out of the required length for a short story.
3. Create new characters for each story or re-use old ones?
Maybe I’m lazy, but I don’t like to create a new cast of characters for every short story when I’ve already spent so much time developing my existing characters. Most short stories I’ve done recently have focused on my existing characters and events in their lives. If I do create new characters for each short story, they feel anemic and under-developed. And I usually don’t use them again after writing that one particular story.
Novels are my writing form of choice. There’s nothing like the absorbing experience of writing and revising a novel.
How about you? Do you prefer writing short stories or novels? Why? 🙂