Writing about Novels and Short Stories

Writing about novels and short stories is not easy without drawing a comparison.

Which is the better genre? Which is the more lucrative? Which is the easier one to write?

I was talking to an editor friend of mine today, and she said: “Well, they are different genres which require entirely different skills. Just because you are good at one does not automatically mean you would be good at another. The opposite, that you would suck at both, is also not true. You could be writing a brilliant novel and only an average short story, or vice versa. Very few people, like Thomas Mann , were masters of both, you know.”

As to which is the more lucrative, well, that is easy. The novel. Wait, maybe the answer is changing slowly, as this article in the Guardian tells you.

There are a lot of authors who have vacillated between the two forms, or compared the two,
but essentially it has turned out that both forms demand equal amount of devotion from the author. A lot of people make it straight as a novelist, without having published any short stories at all.

I believe that the length of the story is decided by the story itself. If you have a wide, sweeping story to tell, which has a cast of hundreds, you can hardly fit it into a short story. On the other hand, if you see events not as a continuous motion but as fragments of time, short stories are your best bet.

I have loved reading novels, always. But then, there is nothing to beat a collection of short stories or an anthology when you are in the mood for a multi-flavored literary snack, is there?

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3 comments

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  1. Damyanti

    Hi Madhuri, thanks for the comment! Well, entirely different skill sets, because a short story gives you only so much time, and so much of a cast of characters to say what you have to. Each word, each phrase, has to be accounted for. The search for perfection is close at hand.

    Novels, on the other hand, give you a lot of elbow-room, to maneuver, to change, to say what yo have to say through your characters, through your narrative voice….and perfect novels are hard to find.:)

    There, I hope that makes it clearer!

  2. Madhuri

    Hey Damyanti,
    Well as a reader, I agree… A novel, most of the times, works better 🙂 … As a writer of sorts, well, short stories are much easier because they take less time and commitment… otherwise i dont see much else to it … of course I cant speak as a published/recognized writer 🙁

    Entirely different skills? Well that seems difficult to understand, the fundamental of the storyteller is same, not?