Writing short stories vs novels by Amanda Pillar

Graced Ebook High ResThis week, Amanda Pillar is my guest! Amanda’s new novel, Graced, has just been released, but she’s  written mainly short stories until now.  Today she talks about the difference between the two.

I began writing back to front. Rather than tackle the shorter and more attainable short story, I started with a novel. I spent hours tapping away at my 386 computer, painstakingly crafting a derivative and unimaginative first person fantasy that thankfully never saw the light of day. In fact, it was several (short) novels later that I wrote my first short story.

Looking back, I’ve been writing short stories for longer than I initially realised. Whenever we had creative writing at high school, I’d use my 500 word essay to write about vampires or witches or something magical, much to the annoyance of my year 10 teacher, who wanted me to write something else. But I persisted. In fact, one of my high school essays became one of the first short stories I ever had published.

It was at this point that I realised I needed to put the novels aside and work on my short fiction. I’d gone about getting published the wrong way; at least that’s what I thought at the time. I’d shopped my second novel around to publishers (agents, what were they?) and had received good feedback, but I was missing something. What, they couldn’t say, and I didn’t know. So I decided to refine my craft.

Writing short stories taught me that they were hard. In a novel, the reader is a bit more forgiving if you take a few pages to flesh out the character; in a short story, you have a couple of paragraphs. And yet, my novel writing had taught me how to develop a character, how to learn all their ins and outs. So this helped. I approached short stories with fully formed characters.

Short stories also taught me that the first sentence is paramount; the hook really is vital. Just as important as the following paragraphs. Every word in a short story has to count. Superfluous words are the enemy; there’s more lenience in novels for that kind of thing. That’s where your adverbs and ‘filter’ words really hurt.

And then I tried to write flash fiction. If anything, that is even more difficult. 1,000 words or less to make a reader 1) care about your character, 2) develop a plot and 3) have a conclusion. 1,000 may sound like a lot, but when you start out writing novels, 1,000 words is nothing. It’s often less than most opening chapters!

I then began editing as well. This helped my writing more than some might realise. It’s easy to pick out the errors in other people’s work, but it also made me realise some of the very common issues I kept noting I was guilty of, too. And so I began to look at each short story of my own more critically.

Then I went back to writing novels.

The hardest transition between the two is for me is pacing. And yet writing short stories means that every chapter I write in novel hopefully begins in a punchy way and ends with a conclusion of some sort, whether it be cliff-hanger or resolution. Every word in my novels now counts in a way it didn’t previously.

So for me, I think my roundabout way of going from novel writing to short stories and back again has taught me more about character development, plotting and word use than I may have achieved going from short stories to novels, but then, I’ll never really know. I just know that I love writing both.

About Graced:

City Guard Elle Brown has one goal in life: to protect her kid sister, Emmie. Falling in love – and with a werewolf at that – was never part of the deal.

Life, however, doesn’t always go to plan, and when Elle meets Clay, everything she thought about her world is thrown into turmoil. Everything, that is, but protecting Emmie, who is Graced with teal-colored eyes and an unknown power that could change their very existence. But being different is dangerous in their home city of Pinton, and it’s Elle’s very own differences that capture the attention of the Honorable Dante Kipling, a vampire with a bone-deep fascination for a special type of human.

Dante is convinced that humans with eye colors other than brown are unique, but he has no proof. The answers may exist in the enigmatic hazel eyes of Elle Brown, and he’s determined to uncover their secrets no matter the cost…or the lives lost.

Buy Graced:

About Amanda:

Amanda_small-1Amanda Pillar is an award-winning editor and author who lives in Victoria, Australia, with her husband and two cats, Saxon and Lilith. Amanda has had numerous short stories published and is working on her eighth fiction anthology. Graced is her first novel. By day, she works as an archaeologist travelling around Australia.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.