I have written and had a few short stories published in various anthologies, but am yet to finish a novel. Often, I’m told I would never arrive as a writer if I stick to writing short stories—a novel is the true test of a writer’s mettle.
When I look at my novelist friends, I tend to agree. Some have been writing their novels for over an year. Others, much longer. The plots are long and convoluted, the character arcs difficult to keep track of, maintaining timelines and consistency nothing short of a nightmare.
But be as it may, I do think the short story gets a short shrift.It does not receive major awards, nor recognition. To write a short story may not take as much physical and mental energy as a novel, but it needs a different kind of skill. Sometimes, I begin to write something one year, don’t seem to get it right, and then have a moment of epiphany an year later (because the story keeps simmering at the back of my mind), when I finish the draft. There are stories I’ve written and got accepted for publication in a matter of two weeks, but they’ve required a tremendous intensity of effort.
I think the following excerpt from an article by Chris Power in Guardian last year sums it up well:
“The short story…acknowledges the vastness and diversity of life by the very act of focusing on one small moment or aspect of it. The story is small precisely because life is so big. Novelists are expected to tie up loose ends, whereas the short story writer can make a virtue of ambiguity. The short story is fundamentally different from the novel; not better, just different.”
Where do you stand in the novel vs short story debate? Have you written more short stories or novels? Which do you prefer as a writer, and as a reader?