Novel vs. Short Story

I was having a discussion recently with an acquaintance. She had asked about my published fiction, and I was explaining that, so far, I’ve had two short stories published, and was working on a couple more, plus a novel. She replied that she never reads short stories — didn’t like them, in fact. I was baffled. Short stories seem the perfect medium in so many ways: short and to the point. Perfect bedtime reading, and the writer has to really learn to economize their word usage to keep the short story short — something at which I definitely need more practice.

After asking around, I’ve come to discover that there are a LOT of people who don’t care to read short stories. Never mind the vast number of Americans who don’t read ANYTHING book-like after high school or college, not to mention reading books for pleasure. Does it have something to do with the current trend of despising smart/educated people? Yeah, that’s high school stuff, but for some reason it’s crept into the common culture as a full-blown Thing, and has been that way for years.

I like writing short stories. It forces me to concentrate, to keep my mind’s wanderings in check, and that’s useful for a writer. Sometimes you just want to let go and see where your imagination takes you, but sometimes you’re on a deadline and can’t really buy a ticket for a flight of fancy. Writing short stories is good discipline — and self-discipline is something I’m often short on, so it’s good to have that practice.

Despite a large percentage of people not being interested in short fiction, there seems to be an abundance of it on the market. Perhaps those that do enjoy short works will buy several anthologies at a time, keeping the market relatively robust, if smaller than that for novel-length works. I don’t know; all I know for sure is I enjoy writing short fiction, and as long as they keep paying me to do it, I’ll keep writing them.

2 thoughts on “Novel vs. Short Story

  1. I love short stories. I’m no writer, but I appreciate the skill that goes into making me care about characters and feel satisfied at the issue resolution, all within a couple pages.

    • Agreed. I buy a good many anthologies 1) to support my friends who have stories in them, 2) to have short things for bedtime reading, and 3) ’cause I like short stories! Like you, I admire the skill that goes into crafting a good one.

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