Feeling a little bit like this hermit crab right now. Been writing a lot, sending things off to see if anyone likes them enough to publish them and trying to whip my novel outline into better shape so I can continue with some confidence I’m not writing myself into a corner.
Yes, that’s a thing. You put a lot of time energy and thought into writing about a character or characters, and their journey, whether it be physical, mental or metaphorical. And then it just. stops.
I once heard a great lesson about the differences in novel writing and short story writing. Aside from the obvious difference (ie one is less than 10,000 words and the other sits at around 100,000 words or more) the story structure changes a little too. With short stories the ending has to be a knockout punch, whereas a novel has to hook you in the opening chapters or there’s no point going on.
What’s more interesting though are the similarities. A good short story still has the structure of a successful novel. A decent beginning, middle and end. Well drawn character and location. A plot that moves forward in every scene. And an arc that tells the story, that gets the primary message that needs to be told across to the reader.
So having all that in mind, what differentiates a novel from a short story? My favourite description of this comes from Stephen King, who in the introduction to Skeleton Crew likens reading a good novel to having an affair whilst a short story is a kiss in the dark. It’s the deep dive into persona and circumstance, and the engagement over time that makes the novel something that requires – well demands actually – a more comprehensive plan while writing so that the nuances of these elements don’t get missed in the overall narrative.
And that, in essence, is what’s on my desk right now. I’ve written enough of this novel that the subtle interactions between my characters need more thought so I don’t miss out on what’s important. So until that’s done, here I stay, although hopefully emerging blinking and sunlight deprived, from my hermit shell sometime soon.