Friday, January 19, 2007

Why Short Stories Are Better Than Novels

This is not going to be some deep analysis of form, style, etc. My opinion is temporary, and entirely biased because I do not want to write a synopsis. See, when you submit a short story, you have a cover letter, and then the story. That's it. The story speaks for itself. But a novel requires the dreaded synopsis. *cue ominous soap opera music*

Think of it as a book report. Are you groaning already? Now you know how I feel. It's a book report that matters. The distilled essence of the story. A total frickin' pain in the ass. There's no way around it though. This is what separates the published from the unpublished. (Well, that and the ability to complete a novel, and some skill at the craft.)

I know I have to do it, but I'm feeling grumpy and don't even want to try right now. I'm going to have to force myself sit down and write it. But first, I think I'm going to indulge in a Diva moment on my (imaginary) aubergine crushed velvet fainting couch. *puts wrist to forehead*


Anonymous said...

The chicken or the egg?

Does the novel come first or the synopsis?

I'm with you. Ask for a book report and you're gonna hear a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth!

Kathleen Bradean said...

Does the novel come first..?

It depends on whether you're an organic writer or you're an outliner.

I often make the snarky comment that being a completely organic writer is like walking into a forest with no idea where you're headed and no trail to follow and simply having faith that after wandering around for six months you'll magically be someplace really great.

Outliners start with something like a synopsis. They know where they're going, how they're going to get there, how long it will take, the exact route, etc. but that assumes they start out with the perfect plan. If something goes awry, how do they fix it? And if the story starts to pull the writer in a very cool direction, does s/he simply ignore since it isn't in the plan? That would kill the best part of creativity.

For this novel, I wrote a very loose outline in my working document to help keep my focus on where the story had to go. The problem was that outline was simply key words, not detail. Since I tend towards the organic end of the spectrum (no matter how much I make fun of organic writers), my first draft is finding the story, or at least the best way to tell it, and the outline, such as it was, was incorporated into the text. It doesn't exist anymore.

Probably more than you ever wanted to know...

Anonymous said...

I prefer short stories...or should I say I have such a short attention span that a novel is out of the question...

It's always interesting -- for me -- to learn about how people approach the creative process. Thanks for sharing.

Keziah Hill said...

You have my sympathies!